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How many colleges should my child apply to?

There are thousands of colleges and universities in the United States (and the world, for that matter). Your child can't apply to or attend all of them, so you'll need to do some research to narrow down the choices. If your child is interested in only one school, the choice is easy. However, most advisors suggest that your child apply to between 3 and 10 schools. Each school will fall into one of the following categories:

  • The dream school: This is the long shot. Your child would love to attend this school but may not meet the admissions requirements. If you don't mind the extra application fee, take a chance.
  • The possible school: This is the school with real potential. There's a good chance your child will get in, but no guarantee.
  • The safety school: This is the sure thing. You may want to choose one school that your child will have no trouble getting into, just in case the others don't work out.

Applying to one or two safety schools can help ensure that your child has a place to go in the fall. If your child has selected several schools but can't narrow it down any further (and application fees of $25 to $100 on average are no problem), apply to all of them and let the schools decide. Of course, if they all say yes, deciding where to go may be difficult.