The U.S. States That Apply To The Most Colleges

How does the college application process vary by state? Grand Canyon University, a private, Christian university based in Phoenix, Arizona, conducted a poll of more than 2,200 people across the United States to find out — and discovered some interesting facts.

Who casts the widest net by applying to the most colleges? Californians, with New York a close second. Makes sense — those are the two most populous states. In each, the average resident applies to nearly six colleges, according to GCU. The remainder of the top 10 is New Jersey, Connecticut, Michigan, Ohio, Massachusetts, Texas, North Carolina and Virginia, which apply to between 4.94 and 4.18 different colleges. See graphic below.

Addressing the discrepancy between the average number of colleges that private and public high school students apply to, GCU found that students who attended a private high school apply to nearly five schools on average (4.69), while public school students apply to between three and four colleges on average (3.52). The overall average: 3.72.


GCU found “a significant amount of overlap between the U.S. states that are accepted to the most colleges and the states that apply to the most schools,” with Illinois, South Carolina, and Maine the only states to not overlap. New York and California “ranked in the top two once again, as New Yorkers are accepted to just over four schools each (4.22) and Californians to almost four (3.57).”

It seems, GCU says, “as though Northerners have the best luck when it comes to college acceptances, as seven of the 10 states on the list are in the northern part of the country. Additionally, private school students are accepted to more colleges than public school students. Private high school students gained acceptance to an average of 3.35 colleges, whereas public school students were accepted to an average of 2.7 schools.”

Meanwhile, Californians apply to the most in-state schools (5.10), because if you live in California you are inclined to stay, and students from Connecticut (3.04), New Jersey (2.54), and Nebraska (2.36) apply to the most out-of-state schools.


GCU’s poll also has some insights on the process, financing, and perceptions. See the graphic below, and click here to read about GCU’s other findings.


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