Originally Posted by Consolation
Re your safety designation: for a true safety, I'd say that you have to be above their 75% point AND the school has to be one with an acceptance rate of about 50% or more. (Don't forget that the accepted students' stats are probably higher than the attending students' stats, since the accepted students with the highest stats probably got into more selective colleges and are fairly likely to have chosen to go to one of them.)
I think this is sound advice. I'd add that any school with an acceptance rate below 20 or 25% should probably be rated a "reach" for anyone, regardless of where you fall statistically. That doesn't mean you won't be accepted, only that you shouldn't count on it.
I'll give four examples of how we rate colleges that are currently very high on my D's wish list (she is a HS junior, so this could change):
COLLEGE #1: D's stats = mid-second quartile (roughly halfway between 50th and 75th percentile). Acceptance rate = 15%. REACH
COLLEGE #2: D's stats = high second quartile (very near but slightly under 75th percentile). Acceptance rate = 25%. REACH (but a lower reach than College #1)
COLLEGE #3: D's stats = top quartile (above 75th percentile). Acceptance rate =45%. MATCH
COLLEGE #4: D's stats = high top quartile (well above 75th percentile). Acceptance rate = 65%. SAFETY
I'd say it's very likely D will get into College #3, and pretty much a dead certainty she'll get into College #4---assuming she keeps her HS grades up, her essays and recommendations are strong, etc. I think in fact she has a very good chance of getting into College #2 (currently her top choice), and a realistic chance of getting into College #1---but their low acceptance rates make these much chancier.