Are "match" colleges underrated?

<p>After the explosion of "I didn't get in anywhere except my safeties" threads and replies, I've been wondering why many applicants tend to pick out one or two dead-certain safeties and a scattershot of reaches (Ivies+Stanford/MIT/Caltech/etc). This strategy makes sense for some applicants: say, applicants who need schools to meet full need, or international students for whom study in the US isn't worth it if the school is not prestigious. But many other students seem to be missing matches from their list.</p>

<p>I am of the opinion that students should apply to a healthy slate match colleges to maximize their realistic, desirable options post-April 1. Matches can also provide the appropriate level of academic rigor without being overwhelming or unchallenging. For an Ivy hopeful, these might be schools like URochester, Tulane, Wake Forest, or on the LAC side, URichmond, Grinnell, Denison, Whitman, many of the women's colleges.</p>

<p>Let's not get bogged down in arguing over the definition of a match, but suppose it's a school with you think you're probably going to be admitted (based on Naviance or acceptance trends/stats), would probably be affordable, and you would definitely be interested in attending if accepted. You may be in the running for some merit scholarships. Conventional CC wisdom says that matches must have >20% acceptance rate.</p>


<p>When I need to apply for college I’m gonna do mostly matches, maybe 5, and maybe 2 reaches and 2 safeties.</p>

<p>It depends upon how one defines “match”. It’s not just a matter of where ones stats lie. Some of the schools that are classified as “match” or 'safety" can be tough goes when you look at the number of kids with a certain stat range applying. There are kids who look at the top schools as matches, because yes, their student body stats are indeed matches for theirs. </p>

<p>But it is too easy to get transfixed on those schools that have the lowest chances for acceptance. </p>

<p>@cptofthehouse, I tend to be more conservative with terming schools matches/safeties. A safety is a college where I’m certain I’ll be accepted and can afford. For a match, I may be fairly certain I’ll be accepted, but I may need a competitive merit scholarship to afford the cost (for example). The key is being realistic. Most likely, Suzy will not be accepted to Dartmouth and Williams, but the odds might be in her favor at Whitman, Colby, or Colorado College. She doesn’t need to apply to Cornell, Harvard, Dartmouth, Williams, Yale, and then Rutgers/UAlabama/etc (pick your safety option). Of course, many safeties are excellent schools, but a range of matches may give additional attractive options. </p>

<p>I think sometimes on these boards, the assumption is that everyone is getting great college counselling. Yes, you’ve got some that pay for great counselling and others who are fortunate enough to have great counselling at school. You have some who’s parents are resourceful and have the time to really dig into the admissions process or at least recognize that admissions today is not what it was 20 years ago. However, many kids are flying blind. They apply to their state schools because that is what everyone does. They apply to the highly-selective schools because they’ve actually heard of them before. Digging through the mass of glossy brochures and fancy websites to figure out everything in between is tough. It makes me think of my son in 3rd grade trying to do a research project on our state missions. His first draft was a mess full of conflicting info because he didn’t know how to reconcile all that he found on the web. It’s not so different when it comes to colleges. Of course kids should be applying to matches but finding those matches, recognizing what a match is for you… most kids need some help with this and not all have it.</p>

<p>I’m going to apply to one reach, three matches, and three safeties.</p>

<p>most of child’s applications were matches. there were two very safe and one rolling admit that became a safe (admitted at beginning of senior year). total record of acceptance was 7,1,1 with the denial being a big reach and the waitlist being a newly super popular LAC. We were pleased at the match results, most of which had merit awards. hooray for matches</p>

<p>If the affordable safety is desirable (which it should be), then it can be used as a way of screening potential match and reach schools with this question: “Is there any possibility that I will choose [match or reach school] over [safety school]?” If the answer is “no”, then drop that potential match or reach school.</p>

<p>Let-down situations occur because (a) the safety is not really desirable (often a last minute throw-in), or (b) the safety is not really a safety (student gets denied, or finds that it is too expensive after insufficient financial aid and scholarships).</p>

<p>To expand on ucb’s post:</p>

<p>Because acceptances come at different times, it’s actually possible to apply to no safeties, as a rolling admit or EA that comes before Jan 1 is is as good as a safety, even if it was a reach. They key in doing this is to have safeties picked out and applications done should nothing emerge before most applications are due. Most kids aren’t this organized, but parents can be, and by managing the selection and application process, you can actually save yourself a little money by avoiding applications to schools that are beneath schools your child is already admitted to. </p>

<p>For example, if your kid gets into State Flagship, Case Western, or Tulane before Jan 1, you’re happy with the financial package, and your kid likes the school, there’s no point in applying to any school your child would not pick over those three. Some schools also have very late applications deadlines, particularly state schools, so you can sometimes wait to see what March brings, although you risk losing some scholarships and being behind on housing if you do this. For example, Alabama’s deadline is tomorrow, April 1, which is still a great choice, even for kids who wanted an Ivy but were shut out. (Don’t know about their merit offer for high scoring kids though.)</p>

<p>Bottom line, MOST of your schools should be in the match range, you are not buying lottery tickets by applying to 15 reaches. You can avoid safeties by turning a match or reach into a sure thing by gaining admission early - then you can buy all the lottery tickets you want.</p>



<p>True, but Alabama’s big automatic-for-stats merit scholarships have a deadline of December 1, so a high-stats student willing to use Alabama as a safety would want to apply in time for the scholarships. Some of the other automatic-big-merit schools have earlier deadlines for scholarships than just admission.</p>

<p>Thanks for clearing that up. I knew that that some did, but wasn’t sure about Alabama. Still a great school for those looking for one, but it’s no longer free.</p>

<p>^^^This is how my son approached applications last year. He applied to 2 school with rolling admissions very early; by mid-Sept he had been accepted with a merit award to one, and he got an acceptance to the Honors College and his major of choice at the second school in October. The 1st school was what I would call a safety, but the 2nd was really a match (esp for HC and the school of engineering). At that point, he re-evaluated his list of possible schools and decided there was only one more (a definite reach) he wanted to try for. As it turned out, he was rejected from his reach, but by that point he was well and truly in love with his “match” and told us he probably would have chosen it anyway (for reasons both financial and fit).</p>

<p>I agree with ucb’s assessment. If an applicant has a safety he/she loves and would choose over any other school except a couple matches, then it makes sense to only apply to those 3 schools. But if he is merely ok with the safety and strongly prefers his reaches, it is prudent to identify several good matches (that may be merit matches). These may also serve as a compromise in the situation of full ride at undesirable school vs. full pay at a highly desirable school.</p>

<p>I think this is a great topic/idea. A good list should be weighted heavily in the middle. I typed up a decent length post but I ended up deleting it because it was exactly the idea of the OP. Point is, I agree completely as an observer/participant this year.</p>

<p>The one thing I want to add is that I think this is more of a CC trend than a general student trend. I go to a prep school, but most people I know had very well balanced lists.</p>

<p>@PengsPhils, perhaps the reason it’s more of a CC trend is that the “rejected everywhere” threads are more visible and attention-grabbing than the others? It seems that a typical list is</p>

<p>Reach: Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, Duke, Rice
Match: NYU
Safety: UAlabama, Rutgers</p>

<p>The poster is dumbfounded that she didn’t get into any reaches (not even <em>gasp</em> Cornell!). Perhaps she was accepted at NYU but cannot possibly afford it. This leaves the two safeties, where the poster will eventually enroll with much grumbling.</p>

<p>Why are people disappointed when they don’t get accepted to their reach choices? And why are so many peoples college lists so reach heavy? The chances of getting accepted are supposed to be relatively small. I would think that one would have a couple of reaches that truly interest them, a few matches that might be where they put their expectations and emotions depending on potential affordability and one or two safeties that they would accept attending and can definitely afford. No one can expect to get into any of the highly selective universities and I wonder how many students are best served by applying to multiples of such universities. To me matches should be where you put your effort and your heart.</p>

<p>@Ivvcsf: because of human nature. Kids/parents who have always been the superstars in their environment – never having to be 2nd place or rejected from anything.</p>

<p>When I call a school as a match, I consider the admission stat as well as admission rate. My D applied a few low matches (for merit scholarship purpose), a couple match to high match, and 2 reaches. We choose a safety school for RD but did not apply as she got EA accepted by several schools already. At the end, she got accepted to all matches (low to high) and a reach. Getting a right list of schools not only increase your chance to be admitted, it also allows you to compare financial aid packages from several admitted schools and avoid excessive rejection nightmares.</p>

<p>Perhaps because there are many colleges that would provide excellent academic and social fit for a student, maybe even more so than that student’s reaches?</p>



<p>I attribute it to unawareness. There are so many colleges and it is difficult for many people to find that match. Those of us on this forum have found a wonderful source of information, but I’m confident that we are in the minority for college searches. Heck, I didn’t discover CC till after our D’s search was completed! (Still two more kids to go, however :slight_smile: ). I hadn’t heard about CTCL till I joined CC. We would probably agree that the CTCL list (which is an excellent resource for many) is incomplete and therefore disproportionately directs seekers to a predetermined subset. I don’t consider myself ignorant, and we had a good list of schools to explore, but we surely missed some “matches” out there. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for first-generation applicants, or those with weak GC’s, or those with disinterested parents, etc. </p>