What’s the Right Mix of Safety Schools vs. Reach Schools on Your College List?

A college will either be a safety, match, and reach college, depending on your academic profile.

Flickr user bwright923

When building your college list, you’ll want to the right mix of “safety schools”, “match schools” and “reach schools.” But what does that mean? And how many should you have of each?

What Does Safety Schools, Match Schools, and Reach Schools Mean?

There are three different “types” of schools when it comes to the chance your application has of being accepted. They can be categorized as

Safety Schools

A safety school is a college or university you’re almost guaranteed to be accepted to if you apply. In the event you don’t get accepted to your other choices, a safety school means you’re not out of luck come fall. You have this option in your back pocket.

Match Schools

A match school is a college that you’re likely to be accepted to. You meet all the requirements the college is looking for. You have about a 40-60% chance to be accepted, but you’re still going to have to impress the admissions department.

Reach Schools

A reach school is a college or university that you likely won’t be accepted to, but it will be great if you did. You meet some or all of the requirements, but the college may also be highly selective, and it could be tough to get in even if you surpass what they’re looking for in a student. You have less of a 40% chance of being accepted.

What is the Right Mix of Schools on Your College List?

You should, total, be applying to about 8 to 10 schools for your college experience. While you likely want to try your chances at several reach schools, it’s not a good idea to put all your eggs in this basket. Absolutely complete your applications for some reach schools. But you may be extremely limited in options come your first college semester if you’re not accepted to any.

Aim for balance. If you apply for 10 schools, for example, your list should include 5 matches, 3 reach, and 2 safety schools. This way, even if you only get into your safety schools, you still have options.

While you may be tempted to apply to more than 10 schools, you’ll want to curb this desire, too. Applications for colleges are lengthy and take up a lot of your time, especially in senior year. It’s actually better to devote more time and effort to each of those applications, rather than applying to more and possibly not giving each the attention it needs.

Understanding which schools are reach, match, or safeties for you is essential to be sure you’re finding balance. Make sure you’re comparing what the colleges are looking for from applicants, and how you stack up, before applying.

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!

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