|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) and it's no easy matter to narrow down the choices. Generally, it's a good idea for your child apply to between 4 and 10 schools. Aim for at least one or two schools in each 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, or two.
The match school: This is the school with real potential. There's a good chance your child will get in, but there are no guarantees. This is a good area of focus. Use a net price calculator (available on every college website) to get an estimate of how much grant aid your child can expect at particular colleges (and thus what your out-of-pocket cost is likely to be).
The safety school: This is a sure thing based on your child's academic record. Your child should choose at least two schools in this category. At least one safety school should also be an affordable school, which means that your family can afford it without significant loans or scholarships.
It's common for students today to apply to a dozen or more colleges in order to maximize their chances of admission and to have many different financial aid packages to compare. But keep in mind that while having a handful of aid packages to compare is a good thing, applying to too many schools can be time consuming, costly, and distracting for students who have to ultimately compare the pros and cons of each school.