What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

What Are Reach Schools? How to Make a Balanced College List

What’s Covered:


College application rates are soaring. According to the Common App, the number of college applicants has climbed 13%, as of November 16, 2021. Meanwhile, total applications submitted have increased 22%.


It’s good news that more and more students are planning to attend college. But it also means the competition is even fiercer for higher education hopefuls. And it means that students must be strategic when building out their college lists.


What is a Reach, Target, and Safety School?


You’ve probably heard the terms reach, target, and safety schools. Any college list should have a blend of schools from each category. Remember that these qualifications reflect the student’s personal likelihood of admission, not the overall acceptance rate.


A target school is one where your statistics, including GPA and test scores, fall within the middle 50% range of accepted students (25th-75th percentile). While you can’t predict your chances of admission based on your academic credentials alone — there’s a lot more to consider, such as the rigor of your courses and your extracurriculars — this figure will give you a rough idea of your likelihood of acceptance.


A safety school is one where you have a greater than 75% chance of acceptance. Again, you should compare you statistics against those of the school’s admitted students to gauge this number.


A reach school is a college where you have a lower than 25% chance of acceptance. Bear in mind that there are some highly selective schools, such as the Ivies and top 10 colleges and universities in U.S. News, that are reaches for everyone, no matter how strong your profile is.


How to Figure Out if a School is a Reach


Again, remember that some schools are reaches for everyone, even the top students. To find out where a college should fall on your list, try CollegeVine’s free admissions calculator. This tool uses your real information, including GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, demographics, and additional data to determine whether a school is a reach, target, or safety for you personally. 


You can also use our school list finder to identify schools based on your chances of acceptance and individual preferences.


How Many Reaches Should You Apply To?


We recommend creating a school list with 8-12 schools. You should include at least three safety schools, three targets, and two reaches. This is the best way to help ensure that you’ll be accepted into at least one school.


Why Should You Even Apply to Reach Schools?


If reaches are such a, well, reach, then why should you even bother applying to them?


Admissions is a holistic process. Even if your odds of acceptance are slim, you never know what might appeal to the adcom. Perhaps your essay will resonate with them, or they’re looking for someone with your particular identity or background. While it’s a risk, it could be one that lands you at your dream school. 


The fact is, the admissions process is always a risk. Some students even get rejected from a safety school and are admitted into a reach at the same time. You never know.

Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.