How many schools should you apply to?
Summary: A 4 minute video on how to approach applying to college.
Video: 4 minutes
Who this is for: Seniors and Parents
There are so many colleges and universities out there, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But you don’t have to be. Watch this video and you’ll start to see that there are several key types of schools. You’ll also learn why it pays to apply to at least one in each key category.
How many schools should I apply to?Here’s a question you’re probably wondering about: How many schools should you apply to? The U.S. Department of Education says there are more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States. But that’s probably too many essays to have to write. So what’s a more reasonable number? Well, as with anything else that feels overwhelming at first, the best way to tackle this issue is by breaking it down.
Should I apply to a public college, a private college, or both?First, you can divide it in two, by knowing that there are two main kinds of colleges: public and private. A public college or university – often called a state college -- is funded in good part by the taxes paid by the residents of its home state. They use these taxes to try to keep costs down for in state students. A private school, however, is supported mainly by the tuition paid by its students, and also donations made by its alumni. This is why private schools tend to be more expensive. But just how expensive? To start to answer that, we’ll break things down again.
What about applying to an in-state or out-of-state college?In the public category, there are two main options: In-state schools – where you’d go to a state college or university that’s in the state where you’re a resident, and out-of-state schools – where the state college is in a different state from where you live.
Applying to community college: A more affordable optionThere’s also a fourth type of school to consider: Community College. These two-year schools could give you an easier-to-afford launchpad for your 4-year degree.
Avoid applying to for-profit collegesThere’s also something called a For Profit college. But as you’ll see elsewhere on this website – we really recommend that you avoid them. And if you read up on them, you’ll see why.
What you can expect to pay at each type of collegeNow, one reason it’s good to know about the different types of colleges… is so that you can better understand the size of the price differences between them. That dollar amount can have a big impact on where you choose to go. So let’s look at what you can expect to pay at each type of school. Of course, tuition and room-and-meal plan prices vary from one college to the next, but here are some typical ranges.
• Currently, private colleges usually run between $35,000 and $75,000 per year, with the average being around $43,000.
• Go to a state college that’s NOT in your state, and you can expect the cost per year to come down to about the $36,000 range.
• But if you choose a state college that’s IN your state, the price drops down to around $20,000 per year.
• And if you go to a Community College for your first two years – where there’s no room and board -- you can expect it to cost about $3200 per year. So there you have your price comparisons.
You need to cover your college costs for 4 years – at leastThere is something else you need to remember. These are just the prices for one year of school. In order to graduate with a full degree, you’re going to need to cover these costs for 4 years in a row. Or even more if it takes you longer than four years. So what do you do?
Why you should have an application strategyThe most important thing is don’t put all your dreams into one college, or eggs into one basket, or whatever phrase you want to use. Instead, develop and follow an application strategy – one that involves applying to different types of schools. That way, even if some of your choices don’t work out, you’ll still have other good options available that could. After all, when you find out which schools accepted you and which didn’t, it’ll be past the deadline for applying to most other schools.
It's important to have a “financial safety school”Now don’t worry. You can always apply to your “dream school, but definitely make sure you apply to some more affordable schools, as well. Why? Because just like you need an academic “safety school” in case you don’t get accepted to your first choice, you should also have at least one financial safety school – in case the costs of the other schools that accept you wind up being more than you can really afford. Plus, it’s better to build up your opportunities when applying than finding you don’t have enough options at acceptance time.
These are the kinds of schools you should apply to:So, how many schools should you apply to? Our suggestion is to make sure you apply to the following:
• Your dream school, because you might get scholarships or grants to help pay for your education there.
• Several colleges that you feel fit you well both academically and financially
• At least one school you’re pretty sure you can get into – that’s your academic safety school
• And at least one “financial safety school” – one that you know you can afford.
Now there are some things you can do to potentially make the whole process easier, like applying to schools that accept the common app. They’re often easier to apply to than schools that don’t use them.
And just as importantly, there are also things you can do to help make your college education more affordable. And you can find out more about them right now – by visiting some of the other pages on collegemoneymatters.org.
A 4 minute video on how to approach applying to college.