The answer to this question really depends on the student. It’s important for students to research their choices and be aware of their goals before making final choices. They should be asking themselves the following questions:
- Do I want to attend university in a large city or a smaller town?
- Do I want to attend a large, mid-sized, or small university?
- Do I want to live close to home or do I want to experience university in a new setting?
If students are clear about the answers to these questions, their choices can be more limited. We then ask students to put their university choices into three categories:
- Reach Schools: universities that are most selective and difficult for anyone to get into
- Mid-Range Schools: universities that can be selective but that seem to be attainable
- Safety Schools: universities that you are certain you can get into
For Canadian applications, we suggest that students choose at least one for each of the three categories. Applying to more than three universities in Canada isn’t usually necessary, but should rarely include more than five.
Students applying to the US should think of the same categories. With so many more choices in the US, students may have two choices in each of the categories. We always recommend that students apply to Canadian schools as well as US schools. A student’s safety school may well be in Canada. Applying to more than six universities in the US isn’t usually necessary, but should rarely include more than eight.
In applying to the UK, students can apply to a maximum of five universities through the UCAS online system and may apply to either Oxford or Cambridge but not both. Students applying to medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, or veterinary science can apply to a maximum of four universities or courses. So students should carefully research their many choices in the UK before deciding on their final four or five.
The most important point in considering the number of applications a student makes is that careful research before applying will allow students to limit their choices by being better informed. Many students end up getting several acceptances which means that making decisions in the spring can be very challenging. It’s better to make those decisions before applying.