I recommend applying to 8-15 colleges, but this number can vary by student. With a college list highly focused on fit, you might get away with applying to fewer colleges because they’ll all be strong matches. Be aware that the more you’d like to apply to Highly Rejective Colleges, the more colleges you’ll need to apply to.

If you’re not as far along in developing and understanding yourself during the college search process, you might cast a wider net at first—then discern better matches as the year continues.

Here’s an example of what a balanced college list could include:

  • 3-4 Less Likely or “Lottery” schools—where you have a chance of being admitted, but it may be difficult. Even with shiny and sparkly stats, schools with an acceptance rate of 25% or less are reaches for everyone. With so many amazing applicants, no one can be sure they’ll get accepted at these selective colleges.
  • 4-5 Likely or “Match” schools—where you are likely to be admitted. Your stats fall in the top half of the class and the school isn’t highly selective (over 25-30% acceptance rate).
  • 1-2  “Sure-Fire Safety” schools—where you are guaranteed admission because either you’re a direct admit or your stats will get you automatically accepted. Please note: these are not throw-away schools—make sure you like these colleges and can see yourself there. And ensure they’re financially comfortable for your family.