Building a Balanced College Wish List

Chances are, when you’re starting your college applications, you may feel overwhelmed by the list of tasks required for admission. To relieve this pressure, be sure to take this process one step at a time. If you’re asking yourself questions like “What do I need to consider?” or “How many colleges should I apply to?”, then keep reading to learn more about how to manage the college application process.

What is a balanced college list?

On average, a typical student applies to between 7-10 colleges. Most school counselors will recommend blending your list of applications to target schools, reach schools, and likely schools.

Reach School: Colleges that may be considered a “reach” by applying. These are programs you’re hopeful of getting into and may be slightly more challenging to grant acceptance. They are still attainable, however, and your positive spirit can make or break the admissions process to these colleges.

Likely School: These colleges are ones you have a higher chance of being accepted to because of your GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and overall requirements are exceeded when compared to the average applicant for the school.

Target School: This is likely a majority of your application list. This is when your GPA and test scores align with the colleges’ criteria and will ultimately compliment your application status when undergoing the admissions process.

Factors to Consider

It’s normal to wonder why there’s even a “magic number” to consider when talking about college applications. This is heavily individualized and will vary depending on your experience. As we describe factors below, you will understand how these elements come together to create a different outcome for each individual student.

Time: Unless you’re strictly using the Common App (a one-stop shop database for applying to multiple schools at once) for applying to schools, then your applications will take some time. Each application will have individualized admissions essays to write, questions to answer, and criteria to meet. Please keep in mind that your application completion should not hinder your school schedule or take you from completing schoolwork or participating in after-school activities.

Money: With each application, comes an application fee. Each application could cost up to $75. That’s why it’s super important to do your research before you apply, rather than later. You don’t want to be spending a lot of money on an application to a school you aren’t interested in attending. Fee waivers are available to those who qualify, but if not, you may want to discuss a budget with your family. Also, keep in mind that there might be additional costs associated with submitting standardized test scores and AP scores.

Application Deadlines: Depending on the types of colleges you pursue; this may impact the number of schools on your college list. If you decide to apply early decision, you may apply to only one school. With this early process, you typically find out the admissions decision before other college application deadlines. We recommend still applying to a few more back-up schools in case things don’t pan out as expected. If you do receive an acceptance letter, you can simply retract your other applications. Keep in mind that some schools require an official notice when not accepting admission. Keep organized when tracking deadlines to avoid missing an opportunity when applying to various programs.

Specific Programs: If you’re interested in an athletics program or aim to be admitted into a specific academic major, your college options may become limited. For instance, if you are hoping to be accepted into a program that is considered a top 10 public health program, you will need to reduce your options quickly in comparison to someone with a general interest in attending college with a “general studies” approach.

Selectivity: If you’re reaching toward a selective school with low admission acceptance rates, you may want to consider applying to more colleges than originally planned. Predicting acceptance is near impossible, and there are times where students meet all the requirements, but still find themselves being waitlisted, deferred, or rejected. If you’re 100% ready to attend school at the next available opportunity, do yourself a favor by increasing the number of applications you submit. If you’re not too pressed on selectivity, then applying to a small handful of schools may work for you.

At the end of the day, the number of schools you apply to is completely up to you. We recommend making an appointment with your school counselor who will help you form your college list based off your specific needs and desires.

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Author:- Kayla Saurborn-Brooks

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