by Nathaniel Dolquist
I recommend students apply to around 15 schools, divided into the following categories:
Five Safety or “High Odds” Schools
These are schools with high odds of admission and frequently include community colleges, state universities, and other large public schools. Many of them do not require additional supplements, so you can submit your application without much extra work. Sometimes it’s as easy as selecting them on the Common App and sending your information!
Five Target Schools
Target schools are institutions where you have a decent shot at getting in. Take a look at the school’s admissions data on their website: if your test scores, grades, and academic profile fall within their admitted range, it’s a target school. Most of all, they should be colleges you want to attend, not where you think you “should” go. The bulk of your energy should go into creating applications for these schools, and they may require additional supplements, portfolios, or video submissions.
Five Reach Schools
Reach schools are notoriously difficult to get into, and though you may be qualified for admission, there is a large “coefficient of luck” required. All of the Ivy Leagues and universities like Stanford, MIT, Oxford, and Cambridge qualify as reach schools, as well as many other elite private universities. These applications will require special care and insight, and you’ll give yourself the largest possible advantage if you work with a private tutor to craft them.
Of course, every student is looking for something different and has their own unique set of skills, grades, and scores. Keep in mind that while attending an Ivy League might seem prestigious, they are not a good fit for every student. Factors like location, cost, scholarships, degree programs, extracurriculars, sports, arts, and quality of teaching all factor into deciding which path is best for you.