Going into my senior year, I had everything mapped out. I visited Truman State University and immediately fell in love with the campus and atmosphere. There was no other place that I wanted to go. Later that spring I found out about William & Mary in Virginia, the school Thomas Jefferson went to. It was a school that seemed so perfect there was no need for a back-up plan. I only submitted one application because there was only one school I felt I should go to. Problem is, William & Mary did not agree and I got the rejection letter in the middle of April without time to apply to a different school.
Nearly 37 percent of all college students will transfer schools at some point in their educational journey. That was the case for me when I eventually made my way to my first dream school, Truman State, after spending two years at a local college. Millions of students across the country feel the same as I did, lacking other options when their main plans did not work out. As a student who went through this struggle and as a former college advisor, I’ve learned that one of the biggest keys to academic success is feeling some investment in your school, which is why most students only apply to their top choice.
Today I want to talk about five reasons you should apply to multiple schools. Hopefully, this will help you as well!
1. Circumstances change.
A lot can happen during the course of your senior year. Your relationships will change, you’ll gain new interests, etc. I was someone looking for a small school with a rigorous academic focus but chose to go to a school close to home instead. Likewise, there are plenty of students across the country whose priorities are constantly changing. To counter this, it is crucial that you apply to more than one school.
If you’re undecided on a major, a community college might be a better short-term option where you can get your general education credits out of the way before deciding on your path. You may also consider getting your associate degree or a certificate first, then if you decide you want to do more, you can stack those credentials by getting your bachelor’s degree later.
Applying to two universities, differing in demographics and campus, can provide a chance to have two styles of campus. When I was a College Advisor, I had a student who was offered a volleyball scholarship after she played in a spring tournament. This changed her options drastically and she ended up choosing a school she never considered before. It’s not always a bad thing!
Applying to at least three schools gives you a buffer if there is a major change that occurs outside of your control as well.
2. Other schools might offer more money!
Did you know that you could be accepted to multiple schools at the same time? Before you register for classes at your school of choice, it is a good option to apply to multiple schools and send them your FAFSA information. When filing your FAFSA you can indicate that you want your information sent to over ten universities. Each will give you information on how much financial aid they can provide. Remember, circumstances can change drastically during the year, so it is always important to see what the best financial option might be.
By looking at their multiple financial aid award letters, one student of mine was able to figure out exactly what ACT score they would need to achieve to make their top school financially viable.
3. There are ways to pay for application fees.
A big reason most people only apply to one school is application fees. They can range from low ($20), to medium ($60), to high (over $100). That can add up fast if you are applying to multiple schools. But there are ways to make it cheaper to apply to more colleges! First, if you are a student on free and reduced lunch or Pell eligible, you qualify for a national application fee waiver. Talk to your high school counselor about getting a fee waived. There are no limits to how many waivers you can fill out. If you do not qualify for a fee waiver, the university itself might be able to help. Many universities will waive application fees for students who come visit the campus or have talked to an admissions representative. Not only does that make the application cheaper, it gives you a chance to go visit schools.
There are also many schools that do not require an application fee for applying. All community colleges have a free application, meaning you are guaranteed at least one additional application that you will not have to pay for.
4. It makes the college process less stressful.
There is no denying that picking a university is a difficult choice for a high school senior. Especially if there are certain requirements you need to pass before you are officially accepted. The biggest of these obstacles for most students is standardized tests. The ACT and SAT can, not only decide if you can afford to go to the school of your choice, it can determine if you even get in at all. My ACT score was too low to get into William & Mary, but was good enough for Truman State. Some schools are even moving away from the standardized test score altogether. When you apply to multiple schools with different requirements for acceptance, it makes this score less impactful.
5. Don’t let rejection bring you down.
April of my senior year I was out of time and options. The only school I could see myself at did not accept me, and I did not finish the application to the only other school I visited. I eventually attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City for two years before transferring to Truman State. UMKC is a GREAT school, but I never felt personally connected with my choice. A lot of that was because I was judging it compared to the school I really wanted to attend. That attitude hurt my grades and my morale. The only solution was to go somewhere else for a fresh start.
This year, students across the country will get the same bad news. They did not get into the school of their dreams. But that should not be the end of your educational journey! By applying to multiple schools that you enjoy, you save yourself from feeling defeated. The main key to success in college is having an investment in your studies and that comes from being invested in your time at school. There is no such thing as a “safety school,” just other options you might enjoy if the first one does not work out.