Match, Reach and Safety Schools

There is no rule that dictates how many colleges you may apply to.

If you’re willing to pay the application fees, you can apply to dozens. But that’s a poor strategy. Take the time to research and you’ll be able to whittle your initial list down to a manageable number of schools.

Once you know what you’re looking for, you can start crafting a list of colleges that fit your specifications. Don’t include a school on your list that you wouldn’t be willing to attend. As your list takes shape, include schools that fall into one of the following three categories: match, reach and safety.

A match school is one where your academic credentials fall well within (or even exceed) the school’s range for the average freshman. There are no guarantees, but it’s not unreasonable to expect to be accepted to several of your match schools.

A reach school is one where your academic credentials fall below the school’s range for the average freshman. Reach schools are long–shots, but they should still be possible. If you have a 2.0 GPA, Harvard is not a reach school–it’s a dream.

A safety school is one where your academic credentials fall above the school’s range for the average freshman. You can be reasonably certain that you will be admitted to your safety schools.

Apply to a few schools from each category (many applicants apply to around one or two reach schools, one or two match schools and one safety school). Separating them will help you manage your expectations throughout the admissions process. And it will ensure that you set ambitious goals and give yourself some back–up options.