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How Many Schools? Narrow It Down

There's no magic answer. One isn't enough, because that school might not admit you. More than ten might be too many, because applications take a lot of work and you need to do a great job on every one. Also, most schools require application fees, so costs can add up. (Note: many schools waive fees for low-income students.)

Fast Fact: Applying to a few schools that really interest you is better than applying to as many as you can.

Bria - view profile
"When I applied for college I did not get my acceptance letter to USF till after I graduated. In fact, at the time I was committed to another college. Today, I am happy and one hundred percent convinced I made the right decision for me. This college is a perfect fit, and I could not see myself anywhere else."
Your "I'm going" guide Bria,
University of St. Francis

Admission Requirements: Research Carefully

Every college has its own application requirements. Different programs within the same school may even request different items. Learn exactly what your school needs by checking with their admissions office or going to their Web site. Start preparing well before the application deadline. Check and double-check everything before you submit.

Early Decision/Early Action: Understand What They Mean

Applying early can sometimes give you an advantage. At some schools, a higher percentage of early applicants are accepted. And if you do get early acceptance, you can skip a couple months of stress and uncertainty. You can also get a head start preparing for your freshman year. But applying early is not for everyone. Here's the lowdown:

  • Early decision. If you are accepted under early decision, you are committed to attending that school, unless its financial aid package is too low for you to attend. Usually you can only apply to one school for early decision. You can still apply to other schools at the regular deadline.
  • Early action. Similar to early decision, but you aren't committed to attend a school that accepts you. Some schools permit you to apply for early action at other schools, but some don't. Know the rules. Under early action, you can still apply to other schools at the regular deadline.

college q&a:    click to expand
Perspectives from two students:

"It is very important to pay detailed attention to application instructions, as well as possible supplements, resumes and additional forms required by many schools. Staying aware of application due dates is extremely important. Figure out as soon as possible if you would like to apply early decision or early action to any college."

"For me, the college application process was hectic, chaotic and stressful. But it was a learning experience, and I was proud when I finished."

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Application Tips: Take Care

Here's some general application advice:

  • Keep it real. Don't exaggerate your accomplishments or claim things that aren't true.
  • Give letter-writers time. If you are asking teachers for letters of recommendation, ask several weeks ahead of time.
  • Beat the deadline. Reduce the chance your application will get lost in the shuffle. Submit it well before the deadline. Print Your College Roadmap for seniors to keep track of key dates.
  • Apply online. It's easier for you and the colleges you apply to.
  • Emphasize your uniqueness. Colleges like student bodies made up of people with different viewpoints and experiences. If you can add to that mix, let them know.
  • Keep it clean online. Don't have anything on your MySpace or Facebook page that you wouldn't want a college admissions officer to see.
  • Submit one application for many schools. Some colleges and universities share common online applications. Once you complete the application for one school, you can submit copies of it to other schools. Saves a lot of time.
  • Keep copies of everything. Things can get lost. Protect your hard work by keeping complete copies of everything you send to every school.


Need More Help? Find a local college that can answer your questions.