5 Reasons You Should Apply to Reach Schools

Student reaching up - it's important to have reach, match, and safety schools on your college list

Flickr user Helmuts Rudzītis

When you’re creating your college shortlist, you may be more likely to focus on schools you know you have a good chance of getting accepted into. This would include your safety and match schools. But what about reach schools? These are the colleges where your chances of getting in are low. Have you thought about applying to these schools? Should you even bother to apply to big reach schools?

The answer quite simply is “Yes!” You absolutely should consider applying to huge reach schools. Generally, your application shortlist should include a mix of safety, match, and reach schools.

But first, it helps to understand what are safety, match, and reach schools and what this means for you.

What Are Safety, Match, And Reach Schools?

Safety, match, and reach schools is a way to sort colleges based the GPA, standardized test scores, and percentage of students accepted. A look at these metrics will give you a good idea of your chances of getting accepted into a particular school.

This is how you would categorize each school:

  • Safety schools: Your chances of getting accepted are over 90%.
  • Near-safety schools: Your admission odds are about 70% – 90%.
  • Match schools: You have a 40% – 70% chance of admission.
  • Reach schools: You have a 15% – 40% chance of admission.
  • Huge reach schools: You have less than 15% chance of getting accepted.

A Deeper Dive Into Reach Schools

A reach school is a college or university where your GPA and test scores fall at the lower end of the academic spectrum of admitted students. This classification is relative to each individual and will depend on your grades and scores, so your idea of a reach school could be quite different from your friend’s categorization.

For example, let’s say you have a 2.8 GPA while your friend has a 3.3. A school where the middle 50% of accepted students have a 3.25 GPA would be a reach school for you, but not for your friend. Standardized test scores also help to inform whether a school is reach or not.

Understandably, it’s tempting to apply only to safety and near-safety schools with maybe a few match schools in the mix. Applying to reach and huge reach schools may seem like a waste of time and application fees. But, while there’s no guarantee of getting into these colleges, we think it’s still worth applying to huge reach schools.

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5 Reasons Why You Should Apply To Big Reach Schools

1. You May Get In!

Applying to those big reach schools on your list can pay off big time if you receive the acceptance letter! You’ll never know unless you apply. The admissions committee may like something else they saw in your application that made up for your less-than-stellar academic scores. It could be something you said in your personal essay. Or you may have been a better fit than you realized.

While each application does cost money and time, it can often be worth it to spend your resources to apply to reach schools that you are truly interested in attending. You’ll never know the college’s response unless you take that leap.

2. It’s Good To Challenge Yourself

It’s always good to have at least one school to strive to challenge yourself. You never know, you might surprise yourself in the quality of work you produce for the application. And because of the higher demands of that school’s application process, you can improve the quality of your other applications. You might assess your skills and experience more critically, leading to a better understanding of yourself as a student as well as a better understanding of what you want from a school.

3. You May Be Offered Generous Financial Support

In general (though not a rule), big reach schools tend to be higher ranked and cost more to attend. If you do receive a letter from one of your huge reach schools, you may be concerned about the high cost of tuition. The good news is most big-name colleges and universities have excellent financial support systems. They offer deserving students generous financial aid packages through grants, scholarships, and low-cost loans to attend their institution.

Don’t write off a school just because it’s out of reach for financial reasons. The college may come back with an offer that makes it entirely possible for you to afford and attend.

4. It’s Good Practice For Other College Applications

You’re going to be working on a lot of college applications during this time period. You want to make sure your essays, overall applications, and interviews are top notch. One way to achieve that is through a lot of practice. These “reach school” applications can be a little more difficult to master but they’re great overall practice, which can make the difference between a good application and an exceptional application.

Completing these may give you more ideas for your essay or see where you can improve on your other college applications. You’ll be able to find out how you can take the extra steps and improve your acceptance chances to the other schools on your list.

5. To Not Give Up On Your Dreams

Did your dream school classify as a huge reach school for you? It happens more often than you think. For many students, their dreams schools are also their reach schools. In this case, you definitely should apply – no question about it!

If you’ve been dreaming about attending a particular school, don’t let the fear of rejection stop you from applying. Instead, look for ways in which you can bolster your application. Want to apply to Yale University but don’t meet Yale GPA requirements? There are other ways to compensate. Ace the SAT. Wow the admissions committee with an exceptional personal essay and stellar letters of recommendation.

The best-case scenario is they will be impressed by your application, and you will get to attend your dream school. The worst-case scenario is your application will be rejected. Sure you would have spent time and money on the application but surely that’s worth it to take a shot at making your dreams come true? It’s certainly better than the regret of not having tried at all.

Things To Keep In Mind When Shortlisting Big Reach Schools

When choosing which reach schools to apply for, make sure there is something about the school that you are interested in.

  • Does that college have an excellent engineering program that you want to be a part of?
  • Is their Department of Education going to help you be the best teacher you can be?

Applying to a school with a big name just to be able to say you got accepted is a waste of an application fee. Take time to reflect on your academic and personal goals and choose your reach schools with intention, just like you would the other schools on your list. You are more likely to get accepted to any school when you show genuine interest in your application.

While you should keep your expectations tempered when it comes to your “reach” schools, it doesn’t hurt to take the time to apply! You could end up with an acceptance letter you didn’t expect.

Use College Raptor to discover your acceptance odds—based on GPA, test scores, and more—for nearly every college in the US—for FREE!

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