How to Decide Where To Apply to College

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  • 0:03 Applying to College
  • 0:57 Application Fees
  • 2:08 Safety School
  • 4:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Applying for college can be overwhelming for many students. In this lesson, we'll look at how to choose which schools to apply to, including limitations based on application fees, and how to choose a safety school.

Applying to College

Sybil is getting ready to apply to college. She's got her pencil sharpened and her computer booted up. Now she just needs to know which colleges to apply to. College application is the process of trying to obtain acceptance to a college. That is, Sybil wants the college she chooses to say, 'Yes! We want you as a student!'

But Sybil has just discovered the first real roadblock to applying to college: choosing where to apply. It's not practical for Sybil to apply to every single school in the entire world, but how does she narrow it down? Even if she applied just to the schools that sound like they'd be right for her, that would be dozens of schools. What should she do?

Let's look closer at two considerations to make when choosing which colleges to apply to: application fees and safety schools.

Application Fees

So Sybil knows that she needs to apply to colleges, but she's not sure how to narrow down the list from 'every single college in the world' to 'the colleges she should apply to.' Where should she even begin?

The first thing that Sybil must do is decide how many colleges to apply to. Will she apply to three? Five? Ten? There is no 'right' answer; it's an individual choice. However, one thing that guides many students' decision about how many colleges to apply to is the application fee, or price that colleges charge to apply to them.

These fees can add up quickly. At some colleges, they can be almost $100! After a few colleges, Sybil might find that she's spent hundreds of dollars, and that's before she even gets accepted to college!

Because of the application fees, many students limit the number of schools that they will apply to. Sybil might decide that she's only applying to three schools, or she might say that she'll apply to as many schools as she can for $200. Either way, she's chosen to limit the number of colleges based on the application fees.

Safety School

Sybil has narrowed the number of schools that she's going to apply for down. She knows that she will apply to three schools. But she still has to decide which schools to apply for.

One of those schools is easy to decide on. Sybil has a dream school that she really wants to go to. It's pretty tough to get in, and even if Sybil gets accepted, she won't be able to go there unless they give her a lot of financial aid, but she knows she wants to apply there.

But Sybil is practical, too. She realizes that if she doesn't get into her dream school, she still wants to be able to go to college somewhere. So she's going to apply to at least one safety school. That is, she'll apply to a school that she would be okay with going to and that she's pretty confident she can get into. That way, if she doesn't get into her dream school, she still has somewhere to go.

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