How to find Safeties and Matches?!

Hi guys! I am currently a Junior, and am going to be a senior next year, so college has definitely been on my mind. I was wondering if anyone could tell me if schools such as: American, George Washington, Middlebury, colby, macalester, Emory, reed, Clark, Hamilton, vanderbilt, Dickinson, etc would be matches, reaches, safeties, etc. I just want to know the type of school I can get into- I don’t really know what schools are matches, reaches, and safeties so I was hoping you all could help me! I am a white female from MA. I am looking to major in International Relations. My high school is a large public school in a city, with low scores. Thanks so much!

GPA: (this is for freshman and sophomore year, as end of year grades haven’t been calculated for this year yet) 3.68 (UW), 4.36 (W)
Class Rank: 17th out of 550
SAT: 1980 (retaking two more times, but this is my base)
SAT IIs: English lit-730, us history-670
AP Scores: ap lang- 3, ap bio- 3 (will receive scores for ap euro, ap lit, and APES in summer)

Classes/Grades: (all are honors, or AP where noted)
Freshman year-
Bio (A+)
pre-ap English (A-)
Portuguese II (A-)
US History (A+)
accelerated algebra II & geometry (A)

Sophomore year- AP bio (A-)
AP Lang (A-)
Portuguese III (B+)
US History II (A+)
Precalculus (C+)

Junior year- (predicted final grades based on first 3 terms)
AP Euro (A)
AP Lit (A)
Calculus (A-)
Statistics (A)
Portuguese IV (A-)
AP environmental science (A)

Dual-Enrollment courses:
(At local community college)
Psychology (B+)
Ethics (A+)
Sociology (B+)
Macroeconomics (A-)

-Greater (city name) Youth Leadership Council (VP of development, founding member)
-Student Government (Freshman class VP, sophomore class VP, Junior class treasurer)
-Mock Trial (VP, founding member)
-Debate (Novice Junior year, but Varsity for upcoming senior year)
-youth tobacco prevention- a chapter of our statewide movement (founding member)
-Upward Bound TRIO program
-NHS member
-(a couple of others also, but not a leader in them)

-Outdoors Varsity Track and Field (freshman, sophomore, Junior)
-JV field hockey (freshman), Varsity Field Hockey (sophomore, junior)
-also recreationally skiing for 14 years (not for a team)
Work experience: research internship for policy studies at local state college, research is done with college professors and published (internship is this upcoming summer)
Ok that’s about everything! Thanks so much!

Generally a reach is a school which has a low acceptance rate or where your GPA and scores land you in the bottom quartile. A safety is a school which you can definitely get into (your GPA and scores are in the top quartile), definitely afford (either assured merit our out of pocket), and would be happy to attend. A match is between the two.

American, GW, Clark, Dickinson and maybe Mac could be matches. Maybe I missed something, but did you have the opportunity to take chemistry or physics? The more selective schools on your list may want to see this, but don’t count them out on that basis alone. Otherwise, you are quite a balanced applicant, and should have some nice choices as a result.

I think that Vanderbilt is out of reach with your SAT score. They are known for placing a great emphasis on stats, and you fall below their median range. I would remove them from the list, and only consider adding if you break 2100. At that point they would still be a reach for you.

Emory and Middlebury are reaches. If you get into Emory, it will probably be into Oxford College at Emory.

Safeties have to be affordable…how much will your family pay each year? Ask them.

I agree that Vanderbilt should be put aside for now. From your hypothetical list, that potentially leaves Hamilton, Reed, Middlebury, Emory, Colby and Macalaster as reaches or high matches. For reference, middle SAT score ranges, class entering fall 2015:

Hamilton: 1960-2210
Reed: 1940-2200
Middlebury: 1940-2200
Macalaster: 1910-2185
Colby: 1880-2120

These colleges will look at your total application; but these figures should give you an idea of the academic level of their students. Your application for any of them would be enhanced if you could approach or surpass 2100 on your next SAT or, alternatively, if your athletic skills can be demonstrated to a coach. Reed, as a school with limited athletics, will weigh still other aspects of your application more heavily.

(Emory’s scores were not readily accessible for the most recent year. In the prior year they were between Middlebury’s and Macalester’s. Hamilton, Middlebury and Colby are text flexible or optional. Their actual SAT averages would be somewhat lower than shown.)

Your list as its currently composed is a bit random: You rarely see Reed and Vanderbilt on the same list, for example. I assume you threw out those names just as examples rather than as part of your actual list? If not, you may want to do some more research on what these schools are like - especially the smaller ones with distinct cultures. It’s fine to be a cultural minority in a school, but not always comfortable. You might want to generate a list that is culturally a bit more homogenous. It may also help if you set our your criteria explicitly - size, cost, part of the country, urban/small town/suburban, etc…We can then suggest comparable that are reach/match or safety.

Thanks everyone for the replies so far, they’ve been helpful! Also I am taking the SATs again in two weeks, so I’ll update in about a month and a half when I get those scores (also should have my AP scores around July) @N’s Mom My list is a little scattered! I haven’t combed through them yet, these are just possibilities, schools I thought about based on my major, grades, size and general rankings. I am looking for a more liberal arts school, with a nice community feel, but not too small, as I come from a decent sized high school (around 2500 kids) @merc81 I am planning on taking physics next year, which would leave me without a chemistry course, because I took two years of bio and then environmental science… Would this be a big deal or not? I could always take a chem class at my local community college, but registration for fall and summer classes is coming up soon…

“Would this be a big deal or not?”

Although it could be a minor factor in some cases, my feeling is that most adcoms would barely notice. They are more likely to just check off a box indicating you have four years of science, while saying to themselves, “this applicant likes bio,” and let it go at that. Chemistry is important of course, and you may want to pick it up at some point, but a prospective IR concentrator is unlikely to be penalized in the admissions process by its absence.

Good luck on your upcoming SATs.

Hi guys,
Just as an update I received my SAT scores a couple weeks ago as well as my ACT scores, school is over, and my AP scores should be coming out next week!
For the SAT I scored a 2160! I reached my goal of 2100 which I am very excited about. The breakdown is CR- 800, Math- 590, Writing- 770. As you can see I’m not very good in math, but hoping to bring my math score up for the next SAT! For the ACT, I received a 32, which surprised me! Also, I received my final grades for this year, which are all As, which boosted my GPA up (now it is 3.76 UW and 4.5 W). @merc81 @woogzmama

“but not too small, as I come from a decent sized high school (around 2500 kids)”

Lots of people say this because they think that college is going to be like high school. It’s not. Your typical LAC has about 1,600-2,000 students. Every year, 400+ graduate and 400+ new faces arrive on campus. These are people you did not go to elementary and middle school with so no past history. They do not know your parents or siblings. Their parents do not socialize with your parents. And then 300+ of them head off each year to study abroad (and possibly so do you). The end result is that you will not get tired of seeing the same old people all the time as you did in high school. (S’s high school was 2,500 and by the time he graduated from his 1,600 student LAC, he said he recognized most of the people in his class, half the people in the class under him, and just a few sophomores and freshman. I think that’s pretty typical.)

There are, of course, pluses and minuses to smaller places, which have been discussed extensively on CC so I won’t reiterate those points here.

Congratulations on an impressive score increase!

Very nice …

How would my score increases affect the colleges I could get into (from the beginning discussions)? Did any matches or reaches move around? Or am I just in a better position for the matches already identified? Thanks @woogzmama @merc81

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You have a 1390 M+CR. Schools don’t care about the Writing score.

The ACT 32 is better than your M+CR (which is an ACT 31)

I think you should retake the ACT to try to bump to a 33/34.

For the schools you like, having a score of about 2100 would make you an excellent scorer even by their high standards. Since you impressively went from well below to well above this, you made most of your choices completely realistic. In terms of changing your chances completely, that’s difficult to do when a few of your schools have <~25% acceptance rates, and therefore present an admissions challenge for even top students. But you definitely did solidify your already good prospects at your identified matches, and made applications to the others appropriate. (At this point, your only standardized testing weakness is your lack of a strong quantitative score. But you knew this anyway – and maybe you can change this too.)

That said, with your new scores you are much better positioned for a straightforward admissions process if you like a school such as Macalester, and you should now be able to concentrate on which colleges would be good for you more so than which you could get into.

Vanderbilt: 5%
Middlebury: 25%

Hamilton: 40%
Colby: 45%
Emory: 45%
Macalester: 60%
George Washington: 65%

Safety (or near):
Reed: 85%
Dickinson: 90%
American: 90%

Reed is not a safety for anyone. Stats only count for 25% of admission. My D1 with a 3.92 UWGPA and a 34 ACT was waitlisted.

@“Erin’s Dad” Upon further review (updating with the 2014-15 data), I’d revise that estimate for Reed to something more like 65%, making it a match for the OP.