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What’s the Right Number of College Applications?

How many applications should a college-bound student submit?  The answer to this question is easy compared to the next one: Which colleges should you apply to?

Experts advise that you use a proven discipline to guide your selection. This is why it is to your advantage to retain IvySelect to assist you through the decision process, particularly if you plan to attend an elite college.

Many students apply to too many colleges. This is an obvious temptation due to the ease of using software to produce an incremental application within the framework of the Common App. Students try to improve their odds by simply increasing the number of applications that they submit.

Arbitrarily increasing the number of applications does not improve your odds of being accepted at an elite college. In fact, you may be acting against your own interests by dissipating your energy and focus. This makes it less likely that you will communicate the optimum personal message to targeted admissions officials.

IvySelect’s admissions consultants advise that, before selecting schools, you determine which colleges are the best fits for you. The outcome of this process is crucial to your happiness and success as an undergraduate.

Comparative college guidebooks and rankings based on surveys such as U.S. News & World Report can be useful to you.  However, they are not sufficient to form the basis for your decision. You need a deeper understanding of elite colleges than these sources can provide.

Picking the best fit for you is complicated by the range of variation among schools.  Even the Ivy League schools are not monolithic. Each Ivy has a unique culture and philosophy and its own weaknesses and strengths. For example, Brown has an open curriculum that many students love for its flexibility, yet generations of Columbia students are enamored of their renowned mandatory core curriculum. Penn has an exciting urban setting, yet many students prefer the idyllic rural setting of Dartmouth.

To clarify your options, IvySelect has developed a nuanced understanding of the diverse characteristics of the elite colleges. First, because we know your requirements, we can rank elite schools according to their fitness for you using objective criteria such as class size, curriculum, climate, proximity to cultural and recreational amenities, faculty accessibility, mentorship and research opportunities, student body characteristics, athletic facilities and activities, clubs, co-ops, and work-study programs and scholarships available.

The second phase of our process recognizes that many distinguishing characteristics of elite schools are subjective in nature. The more you know about the subtle distinctions of each top-tier college, the better your selection decision will be.  IvySelect collects this esoteric knowledge and shares it with you. This as a key part of the value that your IvySelect consultant contributes to your quest for academic success.

Now… to answer the question posed at the top of this post. For students seeking admission to elite colleges, we advise that you apply to approximately 12 or 13 schools. The schools that you target should be divided into the following three categories:

  1. Reaches – We advise that you choose about 8 elite colleges because of their low admissions rates.
  1. Targets – These are the 2-3 colleges that you would be happy to attend even though they are not considered to be among the most elite schools. Depending upon your academic profile, these may still be very prestigious, excellent schools.
  1. Safeties – No IvySelect’s client has ever attended a safety school! However, prudence dictates that you include 2 to 3 of them on your list. These are colleges that you would attend in the unlikely event that none of your higher priority schools admit you.

Your IvySelect admissions counselor will learn your plans, personal profile, and preferences. With this information, we help you identify those colleges that fit you best. In doing so, we take the pain out of the selection process. You will be confident that your targeted colleges are all great matches for you.

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