College Planning

Balancing Your College List

One of the most important things that rising seniors can do over the summer is to balance their college lists. Many students apply to a lot of colleges just to make sure they have options. But even if you have a good chance of admission at 20 schools, applying to this many is not the best strategy!

A general rule of thumb is to apply to 8 to 12 schools: 1-2 reach schools, 1-2 foundation schools (or safety schools) and the remainder should be target fit colleges. A good place to start testing the balance of your list is to consider the following:

  • Do you love every school on your list? Students should be happy applying to each and every school they are considering. If you don’t love a school, please do not apply!
  • Can you thoroughly answer the question, “Why are you applying to this school?”
  • Do you have at least one foundation school?
  • Do you have at least 2 or 3 schools on your list where you would likely receive merit and/or need-based aid? This means that the college is one to which you are likely to be admitted and that your family can afford even without significant financial aid.
  • Has your high school counselor reviewed and given you feedback on your list?

If you can say yes to each of those questions, you’re on your way to a balanced list! If you answered no, please consider reviewing your list with your college counselor.