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How To Determine If It's A "Safety" "Match" or "Reach"

raelahraelah Registered User Posts: 806 Member
edited January 2009 in College Search & Selection
Obviously, I understand the difference between these three categories, I was just wondering how you determine whether a school is really a safety or a match. If is how I've been doing it so far:

Safety = I am above/at the top of their middle 50% SAT ranges in all three areas, above/at their average GPA

Match = I am in the middle of SAT ranges, at their average GPA (sometimes above...)

Reach = I am on the low end of the middle 50% of SAT scores (sometimes in the lower 25%), schools with generally ridiculously prestigious reputations, low acceptance rates

Does this sound fairly accurate? I'm especially worried that my safety schools aren't "safe" enough... Comments?
Post edited by raelah on

Replies to: How To Determine If It's A "Safety" "Match" or "Reach"

  • happymomof1happymomof1 Registered User Posts: 25,531 Senior Member
    You still need a "True Safety". This is a school that has to admit you based on your statistics, and that you can afford to pay for without any financial aid other than federally determined financial aid. Since you are in California, this would most likely be one of the many community colleges in your state.
  • gadadgadad Registered User Posts: 7,762 Senior Member
    As happymom says, there are safeties for admissions and there are safeties for both admissions and affordability. And bear in mind that as you get toward the top schools in terms of SATs - schools that can only accept something like 10% of their applicants - their applicant pools' stats may be so closely bunched at the top that the SAT distributions of their accepted 10% and of the next 50% that they turned down may be virtually identical.
  • ConsolationConsolation Registered User Posts: 21,717 Senior Member
    Safety = I am above/at the top of their middle 50% SAT ranges in all three areas, above/at their average GPA

    Match = I am in the middle of SAT ranges, at their average GPA (sometimes above...)

    Reach = I am on the low end of the middle 50% of SAT scores (sometimes in the lower 25%), schools with generally ridiculously prestigious reputations, low acceptance rates

    Does this sound fairly accurate? I'm especially worried that my safety schools aren't "safe" enough... Comments?

    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.)

    This of course leaves out such issues as displaying interest, yield protection, and the like. Even if it's your safety, it's wise to show them the love (unless it is a purely numbers-driven process, as Happymom describes).

    Match: I'd say that you are above the 25-75 if the school accepts about 30% of applicants, or in the middle to top of their 25-75 range if the school accepts significantly more.

    Reach: Middle or above of any school accepting 20% or less. Middle or slightly lower of any school accepting 50% or more.

    This is all assuming you are unhooked. And of course it's only the way I think about it.
  • RichardHKRichardHK Registered User Posts: 79 Junior Member
    Good thread. For me being a non-US fellow, can I ask a silly SAT question to be sure I am not missing the sense here. I have Princeton Review data to hand.

    For example (Oberlin), if a College has a 'Range SAT Critical Reading 650-750' do I take 50% to be 700? And 25-75 to be 675-725. And so on? Is it as simple as that or do I need more info and calculation?

    Richard
    Hong Kong
  • ConsolationConsolation Registered User Posts: 21,717 Senior Member
    For example (Oberlin), if a College has a 'Range SAT Critical Reading 650-750' do I take 50% to be 700? And 25-75 to be 675-725. And so on? Is it as simple as that or do I need more info and calculation?

    650-750 is Oberlin's 25%-75% range, meaning that the middle 50% of their attending students scored in that range. I don't think that the distribution has to be even, though, across that range. If you look at the Common Data Set on the school's website, it will give you a more detailed picture.
  • RichardHKRichardHK Registered User Posts: 79 Junior Member
    Thanks for your clarification. Getting there! :)
  • bclintonkbclintonk Registered User Posts: 7,330 Senior Member
    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.
  • raelahraelah Registered User Posts: 806 Member
    Thank you so much for the advice everyone, it's extremely helpful. I've recently been making the first college list, and I just wanted to be sure that I was choosing a balance of difficulties of schools.
This discussion has been closed.