Step 4: Finalize Your List
At this point you have already researched the colleges that interest you. Now it is time to make your final list. Most students apply to two or more colleges; some as many as 12 or 15.
Consider the following balance of schools:
- 2-3 safety schools (schools where you have a higher likelihood of getting admitted)
- 2-3 target schools(schools where you have a better chance of getting admitted).
- 2 reach schools(schools that you are unlikely to get into because of competitive admission standards) See the table below under Step 1 for more information.
Show demonstrated interest in ALL schools your are applying to. The graphic above shows examples of demonstrated interest or use this Demonstrated Interest Check List.
Showing demonstrated interest in your safety schools is just as important as it is for your target and reach schools.
STEP 1: RESEARCH ADMISSION RATES AND STATISTICS
- Use Naviance, College Board and the Common Data Set websites to determine the GPA and test scores of the most recently admitted students.
- Compare the test scores. Most admission decisions are holistic and will include a review of your GPA, transcripts, essays, extracurriculars, recommendations, and honors, but academics grades and test scores are often of primary importance.
- Try to have a balance of schools you are applying to. The following information can be found on the College Board Website. See the table below.
A balance of schools should include: Safety Schools Schools where your GPA and test scores are in the top 25% of recently admitted students. Target Schools Schools where your GPA and test scores are solidly (25-75%) within the average scores of recently admitted students. Reach Schools Schools where your GPA and test scores are below the average scores of recently admitted students.
Note that due to low admission rates, highly selective colleges should always be considered reach schools.
STEP 2: ASSESS YOUR LIKELIHOOD OF ADMISSIONThere are several additional methods to help students and families determine if a school is a Target, Safety or Reach. We have included three methods below. Others may be found online.
A. Naviance Scattergrams
Naviance Scattergrams show anonymous admissions statistics of former Fairview students who have applied to colleges in the last several years, and whether they were accepted, wait-listed, or denied. Review of this information can help students assess the competitiveness of their own chances compared to previous Fairview students.
To view scattergrams, log into Naviance, Click on the Colleges tab, Click on Scattergrams under College Research. Choose the college and type of test. Find the icon that represents your GPA and test score.
- If you are near the intersection of the x and y axis, it is a target school.
- If you are significantly above and to the right of the the intersection of the x and y axis, you are a competitive applicant and this may be a safety school.
- If you are significantly to the left and below the intersection of the x and y axis, it is likely a reach school.
Please remember that the applicants represented are only Fairview students. The average GPA and test scores of admitted students may differ from the overall applicant pool. Check college-specific websites for more information.
Sample Scattergrams: Colorado College
B. Naviance “Odometer”
Naviance also offers another visual for students to use as an aid in assessing how competitive they may be at being admitted to a particular college. A student can enter their scores (GPA, SAT, ACT) and the site compares the student’s scores to those of students who applied from their particular high school. To view this graphic, log into Naviance, Go to “Search for Colleges” on the left. Enter college name and click “Go”. Scroll to the bottom of the overview tab to see “odometer” that factors in all the scores of students admitted to that school from Fairview so that you can assess your own odds.
C. College Board Website feature: BIG FUTURE Academic Tracker “Are you on track to get in?”
Are you on track to meet a college’s application requirements, or do you need to adjust your plan? How do you compare to students who got in and enrolled at colleges you’re interested in?
Use the Academic Tracker tool to find out. Here’s how:
- Look up any college on BigFuture. You can search for a college by name using the search box at the top of this page or find colleges that match your wants and needs in College Search.
- Click the See if you’re on track link that appears at the top of any college’s profile, or use the Go to Academic Tracker button on the right side of the profile.
- Use the Am I On Track? and How Do I Stack Up? tabs to see charts that let you compare your academic stats to the college’s requirements and to the stats of students who got in and enrolled at the college.
- Enter your own info and the charts are instantly personalized so you can compare:
- High school classes you’ve taken or plan to take
- Tests you’ve taken or plan to take
- Your grades
- Your SAT and ACT scores
- Your class rank
- Save your information to use Academic Tracker with other colleges. Just create an account — it’s free and lets you do other things, like save a list of your favorite colleges.
Use this tool as a guide, but keep in mind you're more than your numbers — colleges care about your character and what you bring to the campus. Learn more about what colleges are looking for.
STEP 3: USE THE "BEST COLLEGE FIT" METHODOLOGYPeter Van Buskirk, author of Winning the College Admission Game, shared one method on his BestCollegeFit blog. A student’s GPA and test scores are compared to those of the most recently admitted students and then the school’s admission rate is factored in. The formula is provided below.
Student’s test scores fall within: Formula to Determine Chance of Admission: Bottom 25% of recently admitted students School admit rate divided by 2 = your estimated chance of admission Within the mean range of admitted students School admit rate = your estimated chance of admission Top 25% of admitted students School admit rate x 2 = your estimated chance of admission
If a student’s estimated chance of admission, as determined by the formula above, is greater than 60%, the Van Buskirk methodology suggests that the school is a “safety” school. If a student’s estimated chance of admission is 40-60% using the above formula, the school is a “target” school. Finally, if a student’s estimated chance of admission is less than 40%, the school is a “reach” school.
Example of Van Buskirk Methodology:
College Berkeley University of Washington Oral Roberts Fred Fairview:
GPA = 3.6
ACT = 27
Middle ACT (25%-75%) = 29-34
School acceptance rate = 18%
18% chance admission
82% chance rejection
Middle ACT (25%-75%) = 26-31
School acceptance rate = 55%
55% chance admission
45% chance rejection
Middle ACT (25%-75%) = 25-30
School acceptance rate = 79%
79% chance admission
21% chance rejection