What is a “reach school”?
As defined by the Princeton Review, a “reach school” is considered a long-shot for students because their academic credentials “fall below the school’s range for the average freshman.”
Realistically speaking, every top college and university in the country should be considered a “reach school” for applicants because their admission standards are extremely high. Some of these institutions have an acceptance rate of below 20 percent, so even a student with perfect SAT scores and/or straight ‘A’ transcripts might not get accepted.
When applying to a college or a university, it is extremely important to understand the difference between a “reach school” and “safety school.” Due to the fact that admissions offices are receiving applications at record-high numbers, the acceptance rate for many universities and colleges has dropped considerably over the past few years. Because of this, many “safety schools” for high school students have suddenly become “reach schools” because their chances of not getting accepted are much higher than before.
A “safety school” is the type of school where the applicant is “somewhat overqualified” and can feel “reasonably confident” that he or she will get accepted. In order to determine whether a school is a “safety school,” be sure to check out their admission rates – if the rate is below 30 percent then it may not be the “safest” option.
A “match school,” on the other hand, is one where an applicant’s test scores and/or GPA fall “well within (or even exceed)” the school’s expectations. Although there are no guarantees, your chances of acceptance are much higher than a “reach school,” or perhaps even a “safety school.” If an applicant’s test scores, class rank, and high school grades fall in the middle range of the school’s profile, then their chances of being accepted into the school are very likely.
Experts recommend that students apply to approximately three “reach schools,” three “match schools,” and two “safety schools.” This way it provides students with a few back-up options, yet it still allows them to set ambitious goals and expectations.
Here are 4 ways to increase your chances of getting accepted into a “reach school:”
1. Study! - This should be a given for any student who wants to get into a top college or university. If you already know that the school’s academic standards are extremely high, then buckle down and bump that B up to an A. Even the slightest percentage increase could help your chances of getting accepted.
2. Do your research – Be sure to know beforehand whether your GPA and class rank are a match for the school you are applying to. (And make sure you find the most recent data available). Remember, your grades don’t necessarily have to “match” their standards, but they should be trailing very close behind.
3. Participate in extra-curricular activities – Now more than ever, institutions are looking for well-rounded, “highly engaged” students. Participating in extra-curricular activities demonstrates that you are a student with enthusiasm.
4. Apply to a college or university in your home state - State-funded institutions are required to accept a certain number of in-state applicants, thus they expect higher academic standards when it comes to out-of-state students.
It is also important to point out that getting accepted into a “reach school” may not be the most financially smart option for those who are from low-income families:
Getting accepted into a “reach school” could mean taking a financial risk for many students, as colleges and universities usually save their financial aid packages for the students they really want. So if you happen to get accepted into your “reach school,” then your chances of getting financial aid are much lower than if you were accepted into your “safety” or “match school.”