You may have heard different terms thrown around when talking about choosing where to apply.  There are several terms that mean essentially the same thing.  I’ll go through the three I use but the others are fine too.  Remember, that these terms are based on your grades and test scores.  There are other aspects that can make you more or less of a candidate for each school so this is just a baseline we use to make sure there is variety in your applications.

A likely school describes exactly what it is – a school you are likely to get into.  Another term you’ll hear is a safety school, I’m less of a fan of that term because it has a connotation of second (or less than) choice.   The school that is the absolute best match for you in every way could be a likely school, it doesn’t have to be more difficult to get into for it to be the best choice for you.

A target school is a school that your grades and test scores fall around the 50th percentile.  You have a good shot of getting in though it still could go either way.  You can find information on test scores and GPA on a college’s website, on your Naviance account, or on several websites including

Reach schools are any school that is a little more selective and your grades fall under that 50th percentile.  Also, any ivy league or very selective school is considered a reach school even if you have an amazing weighted and unweighted GPA, fantastic SAT scores, and a list of leadership activities to go with it.  Ivy League schools are not a guarantee for anyone.   Definitely apply if you are interested and you love it, but only if it is a great fit.  These schools are looking for students who will help enhance the culture of their school, and from one year to the next will have different qualities that they are seeking.

The number one goal is to find a few schools that are a great fit each student as an individual, then to make sure there is some diversity of likelihood in the group of schools that the student applies to.

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