One of the most important tasks a student will do at the beginning of the college admissions process is creating a balanced college list – a list of reach schools, target schools, and likely schools that you’ll be applying to. We’ve discussed how to create a basic college list in the past (and I’d recommend brushing up on this college list blog post to get the basics before reading this one). Of course, like everything else, Covid-19 has affected college admissions and, consequently, affected how applicants should approach their college lists. These are some of our best pieces of advice for creating your college list now, post-pandemic.
A quick refresher for readers new to the college list game:
- Reach schools: Your stats are not quite as good as the middle 50% of admitted students; you have less than a 30% chance of getting into a reach school
- Target schools: The middle 50% of admitted students look very similar to you; you have about a 30 to 60% chance of being accepted
- Likely schools: Your profile is stronger than the middle 50% of admitted students; you have a 60% chance or more of being accepted into these schools
For some applicants, it can be tough to realistically evaluate your odds at every school on your list. That’s where an Enrichery coach comes in! Our coaches are well versed in admission statistics, and can help you figure out, objectively, which schools are Reach, Target, and Likelys. Most importantly, our expert coaches will make sure your application has what it takes to stand out in one of the most competitive seasons of college admissions.
Consider every school’s MOST RECENT data.
A school that was a Likely school for your sister seven years ago simply might not be a Likely anymore. As we’ve discussed ad nauseam in recent weeks, a record number of college applications were submitted this past year (for a variety of reasons) and Regular Decision rates dropped almost across the board. The acceptance rates you were familiar with years ago may not be the current acceptance rate, and you may or may not currently look like the average admitted student.
It’s imperative to keep in mind that simply Googling “[name of school] acceptance rate” may not provide you with an accurate picture. For example, Early Decision acceptance rates will be higher than Regular Decision acceptance rates, and the acceptance rate for in-state students is often higher than that for out-of-state students for public or state universities. Additionally, certain majors are more competitive than others. You may have to really dig to find out the acceptance rate that is most up-to-date and accurate for your specific circumstances.
Reevaluate your expectations.
Because acceptance rates have lowered at so many schools, there are a few cold, hard truths to consider. For many applicants, Reaches have become even more out of reach. Many schools that were considered Targets might be now sliding into Reach territory. This isn’t meant to be discouraging, but should simply inform how you view schools and build your list.
If you plan on gliding into a Target school without realizing it’s now a Reach, you may be sorely disappointed. Similarly, you may not be excited about acceptances to Likely schools, because you assumed you were a shoo-in from the jump. Reevaluate your expectations and preconceived notions as you go into this process, because things change rapidly from year to year. And that’s OK!
Make your list more conservative than you may have in years prior.
We’re not saying to cross your dream school off your list just because it’s a loftier Reach. Instead, make sure that you have an adequate amount of Target and Likely schools. You should have a fairly equal number of schools in each category, and you may even want to add an extra Target school right now. Many students are eager and excited to apply to a lot of Reaches, but, naturally, more Reach applications can mean more rejections. As things continue to get more competitive, it’s crucial to be realistic and be balanced in each category.
Research your Target and Likely schools just as much as your Reaches.
Again, it’s thrilling to visit the most elite schools on your list. When I applied to college, I was guilty of focusing all my attention on my most competitive dream school. Then, I submitted a bunch of Target and Likely applications without knowing much about the schools. I viewed them as simply insurance in case I didn’t get into my top choice Reach.
Don’t do this! Put all of your effort into creating a list that is full of schools you would genuinely be happy attending. If possible, visit schools in every category. Research programs, dorms, and organizations at all of your options. If you’re submitting an application to a school, you should be able to easily list three things that you love and are excited about at said school. Even “just a safety school” should be a realistic option you’re enthusiastic about.
Compiling a balanced college list is the first, and certainly one of the most important, steps in your college application journey. Not sure where to start, or if your list is up to snuff? We’re always here to answer questions or set up a college admissions coaching session. Send us a message, contact us on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.