There is no easy answer to this question. You should be focused on finding schools that have the programs of study that interest you as well as a campus community you envision yourself thriving both personally and academically over each of the next four years as an undergraduate. The process to selecting schools to apply begins in the junior year when you visit as many schools as your time and budget allow. Once you have your GPA, class rank and test scores in hand, you’ll have a rough idea as to whether schools are a “reach”, “likely admit” or a “safety” school. We can help you understand how to categorize the schools on your short list. My personal preference is to have a list of two “reach” and two “safety schools” on your list. A school that will likely admit you is one to which you would be ecstatic to attend. Ideally, 3-4 schools should fill this list. In total this might mean applying to anywhere from 3 to 8 schools. In a separate blog post, we’ll talk about whether Early Decision is the right choice for you. The most important point to emphasis is that you should not apply to any school unless you can imagine yourself being happy being a member of the freshman class of 2018. Picking a school based on where your parents, friends or beau attends is a starting point- but it’s not the ending point of your choices. If you haven’t already visited schools on your list, it’s easy enough to learn about programs of study, clubs of interest and see videos of the campus – all of this online. What’s more important is to experience whether the fit is a good one in terms of student body, size, location, weather and a host of other personal preferences that matter to you. At College Career Consulting, we can speak with you about your interests, preferences and academic achievements to help you narrow the list of schools to apply.
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. is the founder and principal educational consultant of College Career Consulting, LLC. She has over 30 years of experience as a university faculty member and shares her knowledge, professional resources and support with students who are ready to advance their lifelong educational and career journeys.