Many students begin the college application process with a favorite college or two. Their instincts are to apply to just those colleges and maybe one "safety" college. A safety college is a college where they are certain of admission acceptance. However, it depends on your strategy as to how many colleges you should plunk down the fifty or so dollars to in the admission process.
If your goal is admission only, you don't have to apply to so many colleges so long as you have a safety in there somewhere. If, on the other hand, you care about money, you should cast a wider net for what I like to call college admissions gold. Parents care about this, students often do not because they focus less on money and more on getting admitted.
The gold is money or other benefits offered to an applicant as part of the admission offer. Such offers include scholarships for the freshman year and beyond, entry into a special program that also provides financial benefits and other perks such as early registration for courses and reduced tuition.
Parents who want to encourage their kids to cast a wider net and apply to more colleges may also want to encourage earlier application periods other than the regular deadlines. Many colleges make the most scholarship offers through admission offices during early application periods. So the wisdom here, to paraphrase an election quote, is to apply early and apply often!