What You Need to Know About College Acceptance Odds

When researching, you should look into how schools decide who they’ll accept. Knowing your acceptance odds at any particular college will help you determine which schools you should apply to. After all, you don’t want to apply to too many schools that are likely out of your reach. Here is what you need to know about college acceptance odds before you apply.

Three high school friends discuss college acceptance odds.

What Determines College Acceptance Odds?

Every college and university has a different acceptance rate, ranging from 1% to 100%. The number will determine exactly how selective the school is and how many of the applying students they accept in a given year. A college that is closer to 1% is highly selective. Less selective colleges will be closer to 100%.

The factors that go into your application will determine whether or not you’re a good fit for your school. This, of course, includes your GPA, but your essay, SAT/ACT results, letters of recommendation, extracurriculars, and other information can also play a role. For example, the higher your GPA or test scores (if required by the school), the more likely you’re to be accepted, especially to highly selective colleges and universities.

Will You Be Accepted?

You can sort your colleges into three different categories in regards to “chances of acceptance” including Reach, Match, and Safety.


A reach college means it’s less likely you’ll receive an acceptance letter, but there’s still a chance! A reach generally refers to a 25% chance or less that you’ll be accepted. Your GPA or test scores may be on the lower end of what the school looks for. And the school could be extremely selective, also lowering your chances.

You should still apply to some reach schools, but they shouldn’t make up your entire list.


Match colleges mean you have a good chance of being accepted – around 50% or even better. Under this category, you meet the targets for GPA, extracurriculars, and test scores. The school also tends to have median selectivity. A bulk of your college list should fall into this category.


A safety school is a school you apply to just in case you don’t get accepted to any of your reach or target colleges. You likely exceed the expectations of the school and the college tends to have accepted a higher amount of students that apply.

It’s a good idea to have a few safety schools on your list of potential colleges, just in case.

A Good College List is a Mix

Students should apply to about five to eight colleges in their senior year of high school, and it should be a good mix of reach, target, and safety schools. Your list of schools that fall under each of these categories will likely be vastly different than other students, especially if you have different grades or standardized test results. It’s essential when looking at things like majors, campuses, and other factors of a college to also determine just how good of a chance you have of actually being accepted.

College Raptor Can Help You Build a Good List

Curious which colleges fit into each category for you? College Raptor can deliver personalized results that show you an accurate estimate of your acceptance odds to any school in the country. Best of all, it’s totally free.


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