Tips from a San Diego College Admissions Consultant: How many schools should my child apply to?


It can be a challenge to figure out just how many colleges a student should apply to. This is a very individualized question because each student will have different needs as well as different goals for college and career. The average high school senior applies to around ten colleges these days but that is by no means a hard and fast number. The most important thing is to ensure success into at least one college where a student will have the opportunity to get a great education and graduate with a potential to work in their field. Additionally, students want to make sure they’re applying to several schools with a range of admissions requirements – our San Diego college admissions consultants have a 97% success rate.

1.  Dream schools

As has been true for many years, students are encouraged to apply to a range of schools. Students put the colleges they apply to in three tiers: their dream schools, target schools, and safety schools. Dream schools are those colleges that a student would love to go to but that are difficult for anyone to get into. They often include Ivy League schools, a legacy school or any other university with hefty admissions requirements. Students should always take a chance and apply to their dream school but should also have several other options in mind.

2. Target schools

The majority of students will end up attending one of their target schools. These are colleges and universities that are right in line with any particular student’s current GPA and test scores. No one, aside from admissions departments themselves, really know why one target school accepts a student but denies another. Thus, it’s a good idea to have two or three target schools in mind. If students live in a large state, such as California, they can consider applying to several different University of California campuses or California State schools by using just one application. If students are looking out of state, there may only be two or three public schools per state.

3. Safety school

Safety schools are colleges that the student may not consider to be their top choice but that they are very likely to get into. Usually, the applicant’s test scores and GPA are much higher than the average accepted student, making them a likely choice for the admissions department. There’s not a specific range of safety schools because different students have different goals. It’s important to apply to at least two schools in this group (READ: 6 Tips to Complete a Private High School Application).

4. In-state and out-of-state schools

Many students choose to apply to in-state universities because this also qualifies them for in-state tuition. However, they might be at somewhat of a disadvantage because those colleges receive so many applications from local students. Students who want to stick out as a unique individual should consider applying to schools out of their home state as well. However, dealing with tuition is an entirely separate matter to consider.

5. The community college system

Students who are considering the community college system in California do not have to apply in the same way that they would apply to a four-year university. Any student who meets the minimum requirements can sign up for classes at their local junior college. However, they will be required to meet deadlines, take entrance exams, and possibly sign up for prerequisite classes depending on their high school transcripts. Students who are sure that they will be attending a community college during their first two years are encouraged to meet with an academic counselor on that college campus during their senior year of high school to get an idea of what they will need to do and what important deadlines they need to meet.

Our experienced San Diego college admissions consultants are here to help you get into your dream school. Call us today for more information.

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