When you are looking for schools to apply to, there are three important categories you should keep in mind. Read more below about match, reach, and safety schools and how many you should apply to in each category.
Match: The Princeton Review defines a “match” school as one “whose admissions standards resemble your credentials.” This means that when you apply, your standardized test scores, your grades, and the rigor of your classes are on par with others who have been admitted. Of all three categories, you should focus mostly on match schools, applying to at least three to five, according to The Princeton Review.
Reach: Your reach schools are the ones where you probably have less of a shot at being accepted—but why not apply anyway? Still, the school you’re applying to shouldn’t be a totally implausible goal; that would be a waste of time, energy, and maybe even some money. So, it’s important to be realistic. Don’t apply only to your dream schools, but if you think you have a chance—even a small one—it’s better to apply than live with regret.
As the Princeton Review states on its website, “A reach school is one where your academic credentials fall below the school’s range for the average freshman. Reach schools are long shots, but they should still be possible. If you have a 2.0 GPA, Harvard is not a reach school—it’s a dream.”
Safety: A safety school is exactly what it sounds like: one where you believe you have a good chance of being accepted. Basically, your numbers should exceed the averages. But keep in mind that you aren’t applying for no reason. You should still have an interest in the school in the case that you aren’t admitted to your reach or match schools.