When it comes time to apply to college, students should have a good sense of which schools they are likely to be accepted. Students who apply only to schools that are out of their reach may be disappointed when admissions letters get sent out in the mail. This is why the concept of dream, target, and safety schools exist. By applying to a few schools in each category, students can increase their chances of getting into a college that they'd want to attend.

Why Are Dream, Target, and Safety Schools Important?

Students who are planning on applying to college may feel overwhelmed by all of the possibilities. There's so much pressure not only to go to school but to go to a good school that will help you achieve your career goals as an adult. Students also want to go to a college that will give them a chance to grow not just academically, but socially. Therefore, high school students will need to work hard to get into the school they desire.

Unfortunately, college admissions are competitive. Even the hardest working students may not be able to get into their first choice. This is why it's so important for applicants to apply to a range of colleges, in order to increase the probability that they'll get into at least one school they like. This is why dream schools, target schools, and safety schools exist; to give students options that are realistic.

What Is a Dream School?

A dream school, also commonly referred to as a "reach" school, is a college or university that you would love to go to, but you're aware of the fact that you might not be admitted. It's usually a competitive school where you don't meet all the qualifications that are recommended, based on the average admission pool. Your credentials are good, but they may fall below average compared to other applicants, or you may be missing one of the requirements.

For instance, your GPA may be what the school is looking for, but your SAT/ACT scores may be a few points lower, which can minimize your chances of getting into a dream school. However, colleges do take the applicant's character into consideration by looking at involvement in extracurriculars, volunteer opportunities and your college essay. Based on these, there is still a chance that you may get into at least one of your dream schools.

What Is a Match School?

A match school also referred to as a "target" school, is a school in which you fall well within the average range of the qualifications required by admissions. There's a very good chance, then, that you will get into one of these colleges or universities. Thus, receiving an acceptance letter from a match school won't be such a surprise – but still a reason to celebrate! That being said, there are no guarantees that you will get into your target/match schools, which is why it's important to apply to more than just one.

What Is a Safety School?

A safety school is a school where your qualifications are way above average of the students that are normally admitted. It is highly likely you will get accepted to these schools because of your outstanding credentials. It's a good idea to create a list of safety schools that you can apply and can see yourself attend because then you'll have options to choose from when it's time to decide. Another benefit of applying to a safety school is that you might get more financial awards since the school would be delighted to have you. Keep in mind that you shouldn't apply to a safety school only for the aforementioned reasons; apply where you'd be delighted to attend if your other choices don't work out.

How Many of Each Should I Apply To?

Now that you know the difference between dream, target, and safety schools, it's important to know how many of each you should apply to in order to give yourself as many potential opportunities as possible. In general, most college students apply to between 10 and 15 schools, just to be extra safe, though up to eight is recommended by CollegeBoard. For example, you can apply to four dream schools, three match schools and three safety schools. There is no limit as to how many schools you can apply to, but as the process is exhausting and expensive (you have to pay for your applications), it's a good idea to narrow down your choices as best as possible.

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