I will repeat that my kids got accepted at several reaches and rejected at safeties, and I <em>am</em> talking about schools with high admissions rates (in one case 53%) and their stats were way above the median.
As I posted before, I wouldn't consider 53% admission rate a "safety". That's a "match". I posted that I would want to see at least a 65% admission rate, but for my own kids I put the bar even higher -- around 75%+. </p>
<p>I did make some adjustments based on demographics, if there is reliable published info. For example, because my d. had ELC status in California, I looked at the rate for ELC admits rather than overall percentage rate. But I remember very specifically that UC Berkeley had a 65% admit rate at the time for that category of applicant, and I never would have thought Berkeley was a "safety". It was a "match." She was in fact accepted, although as a spring admit. </p>
<p>I think far too many people look simply at test scores to figure out their chances -- and I think that's a gross misunderstanding and oversimplification of the way the schools use scores in admission decisions. Having scores in the top quartile will NOT make a school that admits 50% of its applicants into a "safety" - it just confirms the "match". (On the other hand, having scores in the bottom quartile may very well turn that 50%-accepting school into a reach). </p>
<p>At the same time -- there may be other factors that shift chances somewhat. For example, on paper NYU looked like a reach for my d. because of weak test scores, but she applied to Gallatin and because of the nature of the independent study proposal she submitted, I came to see NYU as much more of a match for her -- I was pretty sure she would get in, and she did, even though the admit rate for Gallatin was the same as for CAS. I couldn't put a science to it -- it was just a hunch based on looking at the Gallatin faculty and seeing a strong fit between the characteristics of the faculty and my daughter's interests and talents. Unfortunately NYU saw her as a match, too -- and because of the way they leverage their financial aid, we ended up with an unworkable package (NYU gives strong aid only to the very upper end of their admitted students).</p>
<p>If I had it to do all over again I would definitely research financial aid policies more carefully. My d. was accepted at one safety -- and out of state public -- that offered no aid whatsoever. (Had I done my research before she sent off the app, I would have seen clearly that the school could not offer grant aid to nonresident applicants). </p>
<p>Colleges that leverage their aid are not going to give strong packages to students they see as "matches" - they are using their aid money to entice the high end students away from more prestigious colleges. My d. was waitlisted at Boston U, which she and her g.c. had targeted as a strong match -- but Boston U. also publishes excellent data about how its aid correlates to incoming GPA and test scores, and so its very likely that they waitlisted her because they correctly anticipated that she would not come with the level of aid they would be able to offer.</p>