How Many Colleges Should I Apply to?

I’m pretty old-school when it comes to this question having worked at colleges for the past 17 years. Personally, I recommend 7. Two “reach” schools, three mid-range schools, and two “safety” schools.

A “reach” school is a school that you would love to attend, but you’re not quite sure you have the chops to get in. Maybe, your SAT is a bit lower than their average SAT. Or, maybe your high school GPA is a bit lower than the average applicant. Whatever the reason, I still encourage students to shoot for the stars (within reason) and not discard two top choice schools because of one thing missing from their background/application.

Mid-range schools are schools that fall within your academic background, offer the major you want to study and all around provide an environment/campus that you’d be happy attending. A mid-range school is not a slam-dunk, but there is a very strong chance that you will get in based on your background, fit and academics.

A “safety” school is pretty much self-explanatory based on the name. It’s a school that you are confident that you will get into based on your academic profile and background. Make sure that the safety schools you pick are still schools you’d be happy to attend. Don’t think of them as some sort of last resort, because they aren’t. Many students attend their safety school because of location, convenience and/or cost.

Before applying, be sure that you would be comfortable attending any/all of the universities that you have selected and do not put all your hopes into one school. That can sometimes,be a recipe for disaster and why put yourself in that position.

When is the Best Time to Visit a College Campus?

I’ve noticed that families tend to visit campuses during the summer and winter breaks. The problem with visiting campuses during both these times of year, is that typically students aren’t around, classes are not in session and therefore faculty are gone as well. If you visit during this time of year, you will probably only have the opportunity to meet with the admissions staff and possibly a few students that work for the admissions staff. When you visit during this time of year you only see the shell of the institution. I suggest visiting during your high school breaks or long weekends, which tend not to coincide with college vacations. That way you get to see the colleges in full force and not just the shell…..but the heart, mind and soul. This will give you a better sense of facilities, dining hall options, dorms, parking, community life, academics and student activities. I also suggest breaking up the visits over an extended period of time.  So rather than visiting 3 or 4 schools in one week, why not visit 6 to 10 schools over a period of  6 months. That way you won’t feel rushed, you can make the most of the visit and can more easily take in the information and the experience.

Must sees while on a campus:


Campus tour

Admissons interview

Dining Hall

Meet a student in your major


Meet faculty in your major or attend one of their lectures