How Important is a College’s Acceptance Rate?

Is a college's acceptance rate really that important?

Flickr user Anna Fox

One of the very first things many students look at while searching for colleges is a school’s acceptance rate. It’s an indicator of how difficult it is to be accepted into that particular school. But how important are the rates, really? How will they affect your college search and application process?

Safety, Match, and Reach

Several factors go into building a college list. Location, majors, tuition costs, campus size, etc. Acceptance rates come into play as well. There are three different categories in terms of acceptance rates:

  • Safety Schools: Colleges you have a high chance of being accepted into
  • Match Schools: Colleges you have a good chance of getting into
  • Reach Schools: Colleges that you have a low chance of getting into

A solid college list will have a mix of these three types. Maybe two reaches, four matches, and two safeties, for example. By and large, safety schools tend to be the public in-state schools and reach schools tend to be well-ranked private schools.

Using acceptance rates as a motivator

While colleges will have an overall acceptance rate, it’s more helpful to find a personal one. College Raptor can help you there. By filling out a free profile, you can see your personalized acceptance rate to any four-year college or university in the United States.

There are a number of ways to boost your acceptance odds. GPA, ACT/SAT test scores, academic rigor, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and the quality of your application essay all play significant roles. If you have a dream school with a lower acceptance rate, you can use that stat to motivate you into working harder and improving your odds.

If my acceptance rate is low, should I bother applying?

Low acceptance rates can feel discouraging. Why bother applying to a place that will probably reject you? Well, because there’s a chance they might not. Highly competitive schools are that way for a reason. It’s worth taking the chance, and with a persuasive app essay and hard-won grades, test scores, and accolades, you might find your efforts worth it.

That being said, it’s recommended that you keep a majority of your schools in the match and safety categories. Applying to colleges costs time and money after all. But don’t be afraid to reach, just make sure you have a backup plan.