The first step in the college application process is choosing which schools you want to apply to in the first place. There are a ton of factors to consider when compiling your college list:
What is a safety, target, and reach school?
The terms “safety,” “target,” and “reach” schools are big buzzwords in college applications. It simply means that there are schools that you feel like you are more or less likely to get into the schools you’re applying to. Safety schools would be schools that your GPA and SAT/ACT scores are far above the school’s 75th percentile, target schools are schools in which your grades and test scores are at or around the school’s 75th percentile, and reach schools are schools in which your grades and test scores are below the school’s 75th percentile or schools with very low acceptance rates. It is important to apply to schools in all of these different categories to make sure that you have options to choose from when it comes to deciding where to attend, and more importantly BACKUP options in case your reach and target school decisions don’t go as planned.
What schools will offer me the financial aid that I would need to attend?
When applying to college, it is important to keep cost of attendance in mind. All schools are required to have a Net Price Calculator on their websites. Filling this out will give you a relatively accurate estimate of how much your estimated family contribution will be to attend each of the schools. It is important to make sure that you include schools on your list that are within your budget.
How many schools should I apply to?
It is important to have a good ratio of safety, target, and reach schools. Typical is 2-3 schools in each of the three categories. However, you can apply to as many as you want to. It is also important to consider that the majority of colleges have an application fee, so before you submit your applications, budget out the amount of money that you are willing to put toward application fees.
What is “fit”?
“Fit” is the extent to which a school matches what you are looking for as a student. Things to look for when considering fit are size of the school, location, whether or not it’s liberal arts, the importance of greek life, financial aid generosity, average class size, etc. Make sure you do good research to decide what factors you are interested in, and choose to apply to schools that maintain your own personal requirements. It does students no good to apply to schools that they don’t have a good fit with, so research carefully!
Check out this spreadsheet to help you organize your college list!