How many colleges should a student apply to?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 13,322
    Jerome Cole, Director of College Counseling at the Edmund Burke School in Washington D.C., discusses how many colleges a student should apply to.

    Jerome A. Cole, MA

    Jerome A. Cole, M.A., is the Director of College Counseling for the Edmund Burke school in Washington, D.C. and the founder of Cole Educational Consulting Services (Cole ECS.) He has worked with students and families for over seven years to help them plan and strategize for college. As a college counselor at Burke, an independent college preparatory high school founded in 1968, Mr. Cole oversees a program that is designed to support students and families as they go through the selection and admission process for college. Mr. Cole advises over 100 students each year in a small academically challenging environment where every senior is expected to apply to and enroll in college. Prior to Burke, he was a school counselor at Bethesda-Chevy Chase high school in Montgomery County, Maryland. He has successfully counseled hundreds of students and helped them prepare for admission to a variety of schools such as: American University, Clark-Atlanta University, Davidson College, George Washington University, Harvard University, Pitzer College, Stanford University, Temple University, and the University of Maryland at College Park, to highlight just a few. He established the consulting firm Cole ECS to provide students and families with the necessary information and support to make the best choice for college. Cole ECS defines the best choice as the optimal learning and social environment to ensure a student’s holistic success, culminating in on-time or early graduation and desirable post-graduate options. Mr. Cole earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Catholic University, and then went on to obtain a Master of Arts in Education and Human Development from George Washington University. He is certified as a school counselor and is a member of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC).

    Host: How many colleges should a student apply to? Jerome Cole: Question I get asked everyday, what is the right number, I think that I my mind, I don t really have a magic number; I know that there are folks out there and that think three or six or whatever. What I think students should be focused on not so much the total number of applications, but they should be focused on making sure that the list that they come up with is a good, is a very diverse list. In other words, that they have some safety schools on there, we define the safety school as a school where when you look at your grade point average, your SAT score and you compare with that of the schools, then you are above whatever those numbers are.

    So, you think to yourself, based on these two factors, I have got probably a 80%, maybe 90% chance of being admitted to this university, I have done my research on this school, I have visited the school, I really like it, it has got the things that I want and need. That will be definition of the safety school. So, every student ought to have one or two safety schools or their list.

    Next category is going to be the reach category that is that, that is that school that you go to and you fall in love with, because it has got the beautiful campus, it has got the beautiful co-ed etcetera, etcetera. But again, when you go back and you look at the numbers, you compare your grade point average, your standardized test scores to what they are accepting. You are maybe a little bit below, maybe a lot below that s going to be defined as a reach school. That school also would have a low acceptance rate, something in the 20%, 30% or lower. That is going to be a reach school for most students. You want to limit the number of reach schools on your list; you don t want more than one or two reach schools because ultimately, the schools that you applied to, you want to be admitted. You don t want to go through that disappointment of reading that letter that says, You were good, we like you, but we just didn t have space for you so we can not admit you, you do not want that letter. Then the third category is what I call the match or target schools, in those schools that again you have gone to visit there, you have done your research, you have consulted with your counselor, you compare those two factors, grades, test scores and you are right in there, you are right in the mix, you are right smacked in the middle and you thinking to yourself, you know what mom and dad, I am get in there, I have got a really good chance, my chances are 60%, 70%, 80%. Their acceptance rate is 40% or high, 50% or high, that s going to be a match school. So, back to your original question about is there a number, I don t have a number, but I would say make sure you have an appropriate number of schools in each category, limit in number of reach schools, limit your number of safety schools and fill in those target or match schools of as many schools as you like.

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