Before you even begin applying to college, you have to know which ones you’re applying to!  This means touring, talking to current students and speaking with representatives when they visit your high school.  After doing some preliminary work, you’ll want to sketch out a list of schools you want to attend next fall; don’t waste your time by putting prestigious schools which you hated there.  The length of the list varies between students but Ivy Admissions recommends that our typical student applies to between 5 and 12 schools.


After creating your college list, you’ll want to sort the schools into three categories: safeties, comfort or matches, and reaches.  The first category is colleges to which you’ll almost definitely be accepted; the second is schools where you have a fifty-fifty or slightly better chance of getting in; the last describes schools which are more difficult to get into.  Typically you’ll want your college list to consist mostly of matches with a few safeties and slightly more reaches. This will ensure that once you begin choosing which college to ultimately attend, you have a good set of options. Knowing the difference between the three is an essential part of managing your college applications; mischaracterizing schools is a recipe for disappointment or worse.  


There are a variety of ways to determine which category each school fits into, but the best way is to look at their common data set.  This is a form that almost all schools fill out which shows a variety of admissions data including the average GPA, standardized test scores and class rank of an admitted student alongside other qualities the school values such as whether being a legacy or demonstrating interest boosts one’s chances.  A good rule of thumb is that if you’re in the 75th percentile of a school’s stats, you can note it as a safety. The 50th percentile corresponds to a match and the 25th percentile is a reach. If you write a great essay or have some killer extracurriculars, that can give you an edge, but don’t factor that into the equation for now.  It’s easier and often more accurate to just look at the numbers.


Ivy Admissions is highly skilled at building these lists; each student that we guide through the college admissions process gives us more data about what to expect from future ones.  Finishing this list early will lift some of the stress of applying and let you put time and energy into actually applying to college. We also keep our finger on the pulse of trends throughout the admissions and know which schools are getting more competitive and what type of student each school is trying to recruit.  We work with you to ensure that you’re happy with the final list and that you’ll have a range of options come April.