How Many Schools Should I Apply to? 

With acceptance rates so low these days, it’s natural for a student’s instinct to be applying to a number of schools instead of just one or two. Applying to a bunch of schools can act as an insurance policy. But applying to a bunch of schools that aren’t a great fit can also be a waste of time.

The Sweet Spot

We think the best approach is to apply to about 10-15 schools. Our kids typically apply to around 12. You’ve probably seen a local news story or two about a kid who was accepted to all 30+ schools in which they applied. We think that’s a huge mistake. School is hard enough without piling on superfluous college application work. To use a basketball metaphor, the more shots you take, the more you sink. Theoretically. But the odds are, you’re probably going to miss most of the ones you take from half-court, and the ones you take from the seats don’t count anyway. You should really target your list of schools. Ideally, by this point, you’ve developed an academic niche you can show off to your choice colleges. Your application and your niche should be a good fit for the schools you want to attend. Realistically, most kids only want to go to about 5 or 6 schools on their list. We, at the Koppelman Group don’t let our kids apply anywhere they wouldn’t actually want to go. So, that’s all to say, you should love every school on your list, including the safeties.

What about the Ivies?  

The other thing about everyone in the nation applying to a million schools is it has driven acceptance rates to beyond competitive levels. In an age in which Ivy League acceptances are in the low single-digits, we also think students should be strategic about their Ivy apps. If you are a strong candidate, 2-3 Ivies is a good number of schools to apply to.  If you don’t fall in Harvard’s range in terms of test scores and GPA, don’t waste your time.

Maximize Your Time

As we said, ~12 is a good number. But we don’t recommend applying to more than 10 schools that require supplements. Also, we count UC schools as one school because there is only one application involved for the whole system.


Need some help building a college list that’s right for you? Reach out to us here. We’re experts at helping students match with their perfect fits.