This article will help you decide on the number of US Universities to apply to. The most commonly asked question by Indian students is: How many US Universities should I apply to? Although there is not a fixed number that should be followed by US higher education applicants, there are some guidelines that may help you decide the number of US Universities to apply to. Read on to see these guidelines.
When are you applying to US Universities?
Based on the timing of your application to US Universities, you can decide the number of US Universities to apply to. Most of the top US Universities have deadlines in December for FALL term. Hence, you must have your GRE and TOEFL scores at most by October so that you get at least a month for shortlisting Universities and preparing your applications. In this case, you can apply to all the Universities that you desire. In this case, generally applicants apply to as many as 12 US Universities.
But for some reason, if you have taken your GRE and TOEFL late and have decided to go for FALL applications by November or December, you still have a lot of Universities whose deadlines is January or later. But in this case, it is advisable to apply to only a limited number of Universities as your chances of getting scholarship/assistantship become less. But this does not mean you cannot apply at all. There are innumerable cases where students have applied as late as January and have still received fee waiver along with admits. You might consider applying to 5-6 US Universities most suited to your profile.
Cost of an application to a US University
For a detailed analysis of the cost of US University application and ways to reduce this cost, read this article: Cost of application to each US University and tips to reduce the cost of US University applications
As given in analysis in the above article, for each US University application, you need to spend an amount of up to Rs. 10,000. So, if you are considering applying to 10 Universities, you will have to spend at least 1 lakh rupees just for US University applications. That is a huge amount that you will be spending just for applications to US Universities.
Not to mention the additional charges that you will have to pay later for US VISA and SEVIS fee, your entire US University application will really put a dent into the pockets. The entire cost might become an important factor and you may consider applying to less number of US Universities. Hence due to the high cost of applications, students prefer to apply to about 5-6 US Universities only.
Although the cost of US University applications is high, it is nominal compared to the entire investment that you will have to make for US higher education. The entire 2 years of education will cost you an amount in excess of Rs. 20 lakhs. So, considering this amount, the US University application cost is very less. Hence many students apply to as many as 12 US Universities, if not more.
Ambitious, moderate and safe US Universities
As a recent emerging trend, most of the counsellors and advisors in India are following these three categories of US Universities – ambitious, moderate and safe Universities. Generally the ambitious Universities are those that have very low acceptance rate and the safe Universities are those that have a very high acceptance rate. The ambitious and safe University list is also dependent on the profile of the US University applicant.
Most of the applicants follow the following pattern of US University applications:
For 12 US Universities applications: 3 Ambitious, 4 Moderate and 5 Safe
For 10 US Universities applications: 3 Ambitious, 3 Moderate and 4 Safe
For 8 US Universities applications: 2 Ambitious, 3 Moderate and 3 Safe
For 6 US Universities applications: 2 Ambitious, 2 Moderate and 2 Safe
For 5 US Universities applications: 1 Ambitious, 2 Moderate and 2 Safe
Do not apply to a lot of Universities just because they are safe
Many students apply to very low ranked and sometimes even unranked Universities just because they are very safe and you will surely get an I-20 from that University. For every University that you shortlist, don’t ask yourself this question: Is this US University safe for me?
Instead, you should ask yourself this question: Would I study at this University if I get admit?
Whatever Universities you shortlist, it is important that you should be aware of the degree programs and the quality of research and other facilities in the University apart from the rankings. It is not essential to apply to all high ranked Universities in US. Even for some low ranked Universities, you will find some of the most excellent facilities and professors carrying out some very high tech research that suits your profile perfectly. Go for such Universities where you would like to study.
Do not apply to many Universities if you are very sure about where you want to go
Many US University applicants are very sure about a few Universities and still they apply to a lot of other Universities. It is better to apply to just 3 Universities if you have made up your mind to go there. The reasons of going to those Universities might be anything. For some, it might be the research facilities suiting their prior work experience, for some they might have a very close friend in that University and for other there might be some close relative near the University. Whatever the reasons, if you are very sure about a few Universities do no need to apply to other Universities.
Number of US University admits is not important
People apply to as many as 12 Universities and by simple probability, they are sure to get at least 4 admits if they apply to as many safe Universities. Personally, I feel it is better to apply to 3-4 Universities and get 1 admit instead of applying to 12 Universities and get 5 admits. Eventually you are going to join just 1 University. If you are very unsure about your profile and have got a very low GRE score and low undergraduate score, then it makes sense to apply to many Universities. But if you have a strong profile, be confident and be sure about the Universities that you apply to.
US VISA issues for a large number of admits
If recent trends for US VISA rejection are analysed, people with a large number of admits are rejected. It looks a bit too desperate if you are applying to a large number of Universities and getting too many admits. Keep this factor in mind before deciding the number of US Universities to apply.