I had a student several years ago who applied to 24 schools because he was so sure he would not be accepted anywhere. In general, I recommend 8 applications (although it may vary) broken down as follows:
Target Schools -4
Reach Schools -2
It sometimes appears to students and parents that 8 is not enough but it really is. The trick is to comb through your list of schools again and again, in order to be sure you have your 2 safety schools that you would be happy to attend. With safety schools in your back pocket, 4 target and 2 reach make a lot of sense.
You may be wondering how to decide which schools fit into which category. I generally go a student's GPA and test scores. For example, if a student has a GPA of 3.6 with good test scores, a safety school for them would be one which likes to see GPA's of 3.0 to 3.2 from their applicants.
A target school for a student with a GPA of 3.6 would be a school which looks for their applicants to have a GPA of 3.4 to 3.8, and a reach school would be reflective of a student applying to colleges which look for a GPA above 3.8. Of course, there are many features which go into your application, but this is a good starting point.
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