Originally Answered: Should I bother narrowing down my college list?
I applied to 10, and I can't advise you enough to narrow down your list! Honestly, it made my senior year miserable. For about a month, I spent the majority of every weekend working on applications (or doing homework I'd put off because I'd been working on applications). And it wasn't just that it was time-consuming - it was mentally exhausting in a way I didn't know writing could be. I promise, I'm not a slacker and I'm actually usually really good at essays, but towards the end of the application process I just...couldn't...write anymore. It was really exhausting.
Also, remember that you don't just have to send in 14 applications. There's also applications for a million other things for each school (scholarships, financial aid, certain extracurriculars, honors programs...) and a lot of those require essays, too. It's hard to keep them all straight, and doing them all is just miserable.
I definitely don't think you should pick your one dream school, one mediocre school, and one backup! Not at all! First of all, every school you apply to (even the safeties) should be one you'd be really excited about going to (not a backup or mediocre school). Choose, say, two you like and you know you can get into and afford. And maybe another two that you're pretty darn sure you can get into and afford (as in, you're in about the middle range of accepted scores). And about two stretch schools you're not so sure about.
In the end, you're only going to wind up at one, and you don't want to end up like me, kicking yourself for all the time you wasted applying to way to many schools :) Really, though, it's your senior year and you want to be able to keep your grades up and have some fun, and it'll be really hard to do that if you apply to tons of schools.
I definitely know, though, that it's really hard to eliminate schools! A good way to do that is to visit them, if you haven't already. Nothing can beat that when it comes to telling if a school's right for you. And read those guides that give paragraphs about schools and their personalities (the Princeton Review one's good). Also, pay attention to what you can afford. I got into several of schools I had to eliminate right after because I couldn't get financial aid (my family's middle class and didn't qualify for need-based aid, but is nowhere near rich enough to actually afford tuition at a private school!) If you can figure out now what you'll be able to afford and eliminate some schools based on that, it might help (albeit in an unpleasant sort of way).
And...what school are you most excited about? Or what handful of schools? You have legitimate interest in all of them, but is there one (or two or three) you keep thinking about? Is there one you find yourself comparing all the others to? Imagine yourself at each school...would you regret being there and not at another one?
I'd say 5-7 schools is a good amount...maybe 8. But, really, try to narrow it down before you apply (you'll have to narrow it down to one eventually anyway), and your life will be so much easier!