Reach, Match & Safety Schools
There are a number of facets to consider when deciding where you want to apply to college. Does it have a strong accounting program? Will you be able to play water polo? Does the school offer good financial aid packages? Is the cafeteria capable of serving a decent burger? These are all important (even vital) questions. However, you should also be asking yourself if a particular college is a reach, a match or a safety school?
Match Schools: A match school is one in which your transcript mirrors that of the average freshman. Therefore, your GPA, SAT/ACT scores and coursework (college prep, honors, etc.) are all on par with those undergrads typically admitted. While this will not guarantee an acceptance (especially considering that extracurricular activities, essays, etc. will come into play), you can apply with confidence and the understanding that you have a great shot.
Reach Schools: Unlike a match, reach schools are colleges where your academic qualifications are below the average accepted student. When considering a reach school, it’s still important to be realistic. It’s quite unlikely you would gain entry to an Ivy League university with a 1.5 GPA. However, even if your SATs might be 100 points lower than average or you have a 3.4 GPA instead of a 3.8, if you really like the school, throw your hat into the ring. You never know what will happen. It could be a long shot but an admissions officer might just see your potential.
Safety Schools: As you’ve probably deduced by now, a safety school is one in which your academic credentials exceed those of the average accepted student. Consequently, there is a high probability that you will be admitted (though it’s important to recognize that nothing is certain).
There are no assurances or absolutes when it comes to college admissions. Shocking rejections and unexpected acceptances are all too commonplace in the murky and complicated world of higher education. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should throw up your hands in resignation and wait for fate to take its course. It just signifies that you should be strategic about how and where you apply. To that point, we recommend having a few schools from each category on your list. This will allow you to both hedge your bets and leave open the possibility that you can exceed your own expectations. Lastly, regardless of whether a school is a reach, match or safety, make sure it’s someplace you would be happy to attend. If not, why are you applying there?