How to Pick Your Reach Schools

Ivy League

For the vast majority of us, the college admissions process is nerve-wracking. And that’s because of the risk we take. We know that after all of this hard work, there’s the possibility that we will get rejected. This possibility becomes even more likely when we’re talking about reach schools.

Because of the higher likelihood of rejection, it’s important to carefully and intelligently select your reach schools. After all, you don’t want to write all of those applications for nothing!

Limit yourself

Only apply to the reach schools that you absolutely love. Try to pick two (maybe three, if you really can’t choose). You’ll definitely be happier stuck with too many safeties than with too many reaches. It will probably end up meaning more acceptance than rejection letters, which means more options.

Only applying to these few top choices works in your favor when writing applications. When asked “Why our school?” you’ll be able to truthfully write about why you love the school, making your application stand out from the crowd (which is often full of liars and fakes). And because it’s a reach school, a stand out application is especially necessary.

Visit, if you can

You need to be 100% positive that you love the reach school. You don’t want to take such a risk on a school that you might not even like that much.

A visit to my (former) top choice reach school made me decide not to apply. Being on campus totally changed my perspective.

Be realistic

If your grades and scores are far out of the average range, don’t waste your time thinking about that school anymore. Give up on it now before you waste precious energy writing an application. You are throwing away countless opportunities at perfectly good schools by daydreaming about highly unlikely possibilities.

Wouldn’t you rather work hard on the application for a target school and guarantee your spot? Instead of working hard on the application for a reach school just to be potentially disappointed?

Other people don’t matter

It doesn’t matter where your friends are applying, or what they think about the places where you are applying. At the end of the day, it’s about the next four years of your life, not theirs.

You also shouldn’t apply to a reach school just because people will be impressed when you get in. Pure prestige shouldn’t be a factor when you’re deciding which schools to add to your list.


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  • Nadira Berman

    As a Summer Marketing Intern, Nadira is excited to help high schoolers prepare for the SAT and ACT. As a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, she is considering studying economics. In her free time, she reports for the school newspaper and styles photo shoots for the school's fashion magazine. Besides fashion and journalism, her passions include bagels, smoothies and Netflix.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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