How many schools should I apply to?

Posted by Neal Schwartz on August 17, 2022


8, 10,12,15, 15+ ?How many to apply to

I get this question more this year than ever before. Unfortunately, there is no answer that applies to all students. There is a wholesale change happening in college admissions that needs to be considered. There are so many different categories of admissions–Regular, Rolling, Early Action, Priority, Restricted Early Action, Early Decision, Early Decision 2–it is no wonder that parents and students are confused. But, more importantly is the fact that this confusion can impact a student’s admission’s chances. 

College Admissions is in a truly outrageous situation at the present time. The various admission categories have been morphing for years and when combined with the Covid/Test Optional catalyst, application growth has been explosive. This has resulted in what some may view as irrational behavior. 

For example, when parents learn that Mary didn’t get into any of the 12 schools she applied to, one conclusion that has been floated is that Mary didn’t apply to enough colleges. So, the logical next step is to apply to even more schools, maybe up to 15+. We can all understand how that will increase the volume of applications and lower admit rates. 

But what is even more disturbing is the perfect storm that has also developed for some savvy colleges. With more applications floating into the system, schools are looking for better ways to ensure that their yield is reduced–even as applications increase.  It appears that they have succeeded and nearly perfected their ability to gauge a student's true interest. Even while ignoring the increase in applications, and noting that the number of seats remains the same, some top colleges have lowered the absolute number of students that they admit.

So, what is the answer?

How can you stop the continuing trend towards lower and lower admit rates? No single individual can effectively change this course. Rather the focus should be on this question: how can I prove my worthiness as an admit? IMHO, the more schools a student applies to actually lessens a student’s chances of getting in. 

Follow this logic. More selective schools are using early decision as a way to protect their yield. Students who commit to a single school are preferred over those that are just “shopping” or “hoping.” The reason students apply to schools early is to prove they are committed to THAT institution AND if offered admission, they will attend. Naturally, the more schools that a student applies to, the harder it is to demonstrate equal commitment to a larger number of schools. It just takes a lot more time and effort. 

The proportion of a student's list that contains Early Action schools has become something to factor.  Let’s say a student has (1) ED school, (8) Early Action Schools, (1) ED 2 school selected and (2) Regular Decision. In this case, there are only two schools that are outliers.  But compare that to a student who has a greater number of Regular Decision schools, [(1) ED school, (2) Early Action Schools, (1) ED 2 school selected and (8) Regular Decision] In this case, the latter student would have 8 outlier schools and their admissions chances would be riskier. 

The bottom line is that it’s complicated, and the answer always depends on the individual. So, if you are seeking some sound advice through the various stages of this process, please reach out to us. We can help.

Best Regards,

Neals Signature single thick

Neal Schwartz, Owner

College Planning of Westchester


Neal at Duke cropped2



Now in our 18th Year

Neal 2019 - book a time

Now registering for our:

college counseling program and SAT/ACT test prep programs


now is the best time for test Prep and College applications 


Register Today



Topics: college preparation, college admissions, early decision, early action, early decision 2, college selection, college counseling, high school senior, high school junior, college search, regular decision, college planning, admitted students


Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all

Contact us: