I am busy applying to colleges. When should I have my applications in? How soon will I have to make a decision about which one to attend? I want to get this out of the way before it completely stresses me out so I won't have much fun this year. --Senior


We hope that you have given careful thought to which colleges you will send applications. Admittedly, it is not too difficult to apply to many with online applications so popular, as well as the Common Application. If you are applying to more than 10 schools, you may not have much interest in many of them. If you only apply to two, you are limiting your possibilities, especially in finding the best financial opportunities.

According to the College Board, the appropriate number of college applications for most students is between five and eight. You should choose ones in each of these categories: definitely will be admitted, probably admitted, and a stretch to be admitted. This way you will have schools that will accept you. Applying to only Ivy League schools is not sensible, even if you are going to be valedictorian of your class and have a straight-A average -- so will many of the other applicants.

Pay close attention to the application dates. You need to get your applications in early to schools with rolling admission deadlines, as their admission policies vary. Some close enrollment after a certain number of students have been accepted. Another reason for completing applications early is that you can make requests to teachers and counselors for letters of recommendation before they are overwhelmed by the number of requests that they receive. It especially helps if you give these people a page detailing your academic record, extracurricular activities, special interests and achievements.

If you will be needing financial aid, do not accept an offer of enrollment this fall unless you are satisfied that you know what the cost of the college will be and have a very good idea of how much financial aid you are likely to receive.