As you look at college admissions, how many colleges should you apply to? What types of colleges are important to include on your application list and why? 

How many colleges should you apply to? 

You want to create competition for your skills, so apply to at least seven colleges to find the best college for you, at the lowest cost! 

How many colleges should you apply to?

If you only apply to one or two colleges, you might miss the chance to negotiate for a bigger scholarship. By applying to multiple colleges, you have choices in case you change your mind, or a better deal comes along. 

Why apply to so many colleges? 

One big reason to apply to so many colleges is because future goals and plans change. You might be set on one career and/or college your junior year, then learn more about other opportunities as a senior. If you’ve limited yourself to one college or one path, you might miss some opportunities (or stay in college longer, accumulating more debt than you needed to!). 

You create more competition for you as a student. Just as you different stores often price-match to earn your business, if a college is interested in you, you can use other colleges to negotiate more financial aid or college scholarships

Many colleges, especially those looking to increase enrollment, want to know what it takes to get you on campus. Financial aid is negotiable. If you’re honest and respectful in asking for more aid, you might attend your best-fit college at an even lower cost.

Apply to Different Types of Colleges

As you make your college list, try to include schools from each of these categories:

  • Two universities
  • Two state colleges
  • Two private colleges
  • One community college

Applying to different types of universities and colleges helps you learn about what each type can offer, helping you find the right destination for you.

Choose based on Acceptance Rate and Cost

Another way to look at the seven colleges you should apply to is by the acceptance rate and cost. You shouldn’t exclusively apply to colleges that might be out of your price range! But you also want to aim high and chase your dreams. You never know what might happen!

  • Two dream schools: These are schools you might not get into or might be too expensive. But it never hurts to apply and find out! 
  • Two safety schools: These are two schools you are confident you will be able to get into and fit within your price range. 
  • Three money schools: These are schools that offer amazing scholarships and would make it easy to graduate with little or no student loan debt. 

Understanding what you can afford financially and what schools might be a great fit for you academically can be helpful as you look to apply to your colleges! 

How to Choose Colleges to Apply to 

As you make decisions about which colleges to add to your list, here are a few helpful questions to ask: 

  • Will it be affordable?
  • What scholarships are available?
  • Where is the college located? 
  • Can you participate in your main extracurricular?
  • How large of a school do you want?
  • What might your major be? 
  • What is the four-year graduation rate?

Asking good questions early on can make sure you have a great list of colleges when you’re ready to apply!

Use the Common App

If you are planning on applying to multiple schools that require you to write an essay, consider using the Common App. The Common App is an easy option to compile all your personal information, transcript, essays, recommendation letters, and more to submit to colleges. It allows you to upload your information and then send applications to nearly 900 different colleges and universities from their platform. 

You still must pay the application fees for each as well as fill out any additional information colleges might require, but why not save some time in the process? 



When it comes to applying to colleges, applying to at least seven colleges creates competition for your skills and helps you find the college that’s the right fit for you. Need help creating your college list? OnToCollege can help! Learn more about our
College Counseling System!

Find the Perfect College at the Right Cost

College admissions can be complex, but you don’t have to do it alone. John Baylor and OnToCollege are here to help.