When you start thinking about building your college list, the terms reach, target, match and safety will be used. However, what do these terms really mean? They refer to the type of colleges you should consider.
A safety school is one that will most likely accept your application for admission. The college is most likely to accept you if your high school grades and test scores are well above the school’s average.
Target or Match School
A target or match school is one that will probably accept your application for admission. Your high school grades and test scores will fall into the middle range when looking at the school’s profile.
A reach school is a college that you might have a chance of getting into, but something in your academic profile is on the low side when looking at the school’s profile.
Far Reach School
While a reach school is one that you might have a slight chance of acceptance, a far reach school is one that is very unlikely to offer admission. Your academic profile will fall short of the admissions averages when looking at the school’s profile.
You should be able to find the school’s academic profile somewhere on their website, usually in the admissions section. Another place you can find this information is Collegeboard’s Big Future website. Not only does it provide a college matching search engine, it has admissions statistic provided directly from the colleges.
Now that the types of schools have been defined, college applicants need to understand that there is no guarantee that a student will be admitted to any school – safety, target or reach.
Note About Top Colleges and Universities
Many of the top colleges and universities in the United States have very low acceptance rates. For example, Stanford University had the lowest acceptance rate in 2014, accepting only five percent of the students who applied. While many of the students probably met and/or exceeded the average GPA and test scores of the previous year’s accepted students, many were not admitted. Therefore, top colleges and universities with low acceptance rates should never be considered a safety or target school.
How Many Of Each College Should Students Apply?
There is no specific rule that says that a student should apply to a certain number of schools. Some students apply to only one, while others apply to many more. There was even a recent article that that told the story of a student who applied to 43 colleges. Most students apply to 5 – 7 colleges. These numbers are much more realistic.
There is also no rule that says you need to apply to a specific number of safety, target and reach schools. While I do not think you have to apply to a reach school, you should definitely have a few target and safety schools on your list. Reach schools are a dream, and if you think there may be a shot, I say go for it! You do not want to ask yourself in the future, “What if?”
If you ever have questions about your chances, get someone else’s opinion. Your guidance counselor or an educational consultant should have some insight into your chances of admission. You can also reach out to the admissions office at the colleges you are considering. The admission counselors at many colleges make the admission decisions, or at least play a role in the decision process. Reach out to them and ask questions not only about the college, but also about your chances. Some counselors will be more open than others, but most will give you some information.
Last Piece of Advice
Do not select a safety school just because you have to have a safety college on your list. While I hope you get into your first choice, it might not happen. All of the colleges on your list should be places you feel you will enjoy. Dig deep – a college that could be a considered a safety school for you could be the best fit. Research and visit colleges to make sure they feel right for you.
If you need any help building your college list, I can help you build your list. Contact me with your questions.
While I do not think students need to focus on the colleges they will be attending in the future, middle school students can definitely start preparing for college.
What can middle school students do now to plan for college?
Middle school students can also start exploring colleges. While it is easy to set your mind on one college, I encourage students to explore different college options. Many colleges out there are outstanding, including colleges you may have never heard of yet. Middle school students can attend college fairs and visit colleges, but your main focus during middle school should be to prepare for college in general.