In the high-stakes game of college admissions, you’ve got to go in with a strategy, especially when it comes to where you apply. There are a lot of different theories about school selection. Some people apply to 20 schools; some only apply to a few. The truth is… there is no magic number. BUT no matter how many schools are on your list, the most important thing is a balanced strategy.
A winning hand will be the perfect mix of match (“I’ve got a good chance of getting in”), safety schools (“I’m definitely getting in”), and reach schools (“It’s a long-shot, but just maybe…”). Most students will apply to 3-4 match schools, and then 2 safety and 2 reach. Why? Well, as any good gambler will tell you, you’ve got to hedge your bets. Having a range of schools on your list will help you set ambitious goals while giving yourself back-up options. Fair and true, but it also forces you to do three very important things.
1. Know your cards
Picking your reach and safety schools forces you to evaluate your own profile and think like an admissions committee. Examine your strengths and weaknesses. Find the gaps in your application and do what you can to fill them. It’s one of the best ways to really get to know yourself and choose the right schools.
2. Know who you’re playing against
In order to categorize schools into match, safety, and reach, you’ve got to do your homework. Too often, students will create lists based on what they think they know, without actually going into school admissions profiles. You need to know what your school is looking for and how you compare to the other applicants.
3. Put on your pokerface
The college application process is a grueling, stressful time. Having a balanced school list will keep you sane. Applying to safety schools will calm you with the reassurance that at least you’ll get in SOMEwhere and not be stuck at home. Applying to reach schools will give you the satisfaction of having given it your best shot.
Know yourself, know your schools, and keep calm. That’s the best advice anyone can give about applying to college, and making a strategic and balanced school list is a great step towards acceptance. Jackpot.
By Tiffany Chen, Admissionado Senior Editor