Dear Ruby,

How many colleges should I apply to? How many is too many?

Sincerely, Concerned Student

Source: Best Clipart Blog
Source: Best Clipart Blog

Dear Concerned Student,

That seems to be a worry for many seniors this year. One of the biggest upward trends over the past 10 years has been the amount of colleges high school seniors apply to. Results of NACAC’s 2010 Admission Trends Survey indicate that “most colleges (73 percent) experienced an increase in the number of applications they received compared to Fall 2009. Over the past five years, [with the exception of 2009,] approximately three-quarters of colleges have reported increases in applications.”

Whether or not a graduating senior attended public or private high school has become a major factor in this increase in applications. This is mainly due to the amount of guidance each student receives.

Andover High School, like many other public high schools, has a high student to guidance counselor ratio (approximately 235:1). This can make it rather difficult for students to receive good one-on-one counseling about their plans for college. Private schools, however, usually have their own department designed to help students with the college process beginning freshman year. Thus, for kids in private schools, by the time Fall of senior year rolls around, they have a focused list of schools they want to apply to unlike many of their public school counterparts.

Interestingly enough, “over the years the total number of colleges that students apply to from Andover High has stayed pretty consistent, regardless of the class size,” according to Ms. Gould, our Registrar. Last year, the total number of colleges that received an AHS application was 435, and the year before that it was 421; this year, seniors have already applied to a total of 302 colleges.

So how many schools are too many? A Forbes article says that there is no default number of colleges a senior should apply to. However the average number of schools an individual student applies to is around 8 for Andover High School (where some students apply to more, some apply to less). The real question, according to Forbes, is why you are applying to each school. Why do you like it? Does it offer academic courses you’re interested in? Can you picture yourself living there for the next four years of your life? That, I believe, is the most important question to ask yourself before clicking “submit.” If you answer yes, then by all means, I say go for it and don’t worry about anything else other than making your application the best representation of yourself.