The Difference Between Reach, Match, and Safety Schools

What Are Reach, Match, and Safety Schools?


When you start thinking about applying to colleges, you should keep in mind what your reach, match, and safety schools might be. If you’re not sure what the difference between these are, I’ll break it down below.

Reach schools

Also known as “dream schools,” a reach school is when you compare your academic record/transcript (high school grades, SAT/ACT scores, etc.) to freshmen in these schools. At a reach school, you will be below the average. It will be less likely for you to be accepted into one of these schools, but if you really like the school, give it a shot! Just keep in mind that if you have a very low GPA and significantly lower standardized test scores than most people, you might not want to waste your time applying to someplace extremely competitive. Try to be a little realistic. Every person’s reach school will be different, and that’s okay!


Match schools

Your test scores and GPA match the average student who gets admitted to these schools. You will have a pretty good chance of getting accepted if you apply to one of these colleges. These types of schools will probably be a good place to attend if you don’t want to be challenged too much, but you don’t want it to be too easy.

Safety schools

Your GPA and test scores are above the average. You should easily get accepted to one of these schools if you apply to them. It’s good to apply to one or two safety schools at least as a backup plan.

If you already have a list of colleges you’re interested in, you should categorize them into reach, match, and safety schools. If you don’t have a list to organize, then research some colleges you might want to attend. Keep your academic record in mind and see if you can determine whether each school is a reach, match, or safety school for you. You will probably be able to find statistics about the college on their website. If not, you can ask your guidance counselor or someone else to help you find the average admitted student’s academic statistics, or you can call the college. It’s nice to have an idea of how you compare to the average student there, so you know what to expect, and if you should expect to be accepted.

It would be a good idea for you to apply to around five to ten schools. You might not get accepted to all of them, but that will give you plenty of options to choose from. Try to pick a couple reach and safety schools, but the majority should be match schools. Apply to each category and see what happens! You could get into your dream college! Even if your first choice gets ruled out, you may discover that the other colleges have more competitive fields of study or better sports teams. Plus, some colleges could offer you huge financial aid packages, so even if you think a reach college is impossible, try anyways!

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