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How to Determine Your Chances at a College

I’m going to be honest with you: the title of this blog post is a little misleading. There’s no way to figure out the exact odds of you being admitted to any particular college (unless it’s a school with assured admission for students who meet certain criteria!) Anyone who tells you that you have a, say, 65% chance of getting into a particular college just made up that number.

But with a little research and analysis, you can determine whether a given school is a safety, match, reach, or long shot. You’ve probably heard these terms, or similar ones, before -- you already know that you need a mix of colleges in each of these categories in order to have a balanced college list. (If that’s news to you, don’t freak out! We’ll have a blog post about this coming soon.)

You can begin by looking up the average SAT/ACT scores, GPA, and class rank of admitted students at each school you’re interested in. These statistics will help you determine your chances of admission. But you’ve got to be careful here! College admissions are getting more competitive every year, so being in the middle of the pack isn’t enough; you’ll need to be ahead of the pack (i.e. above the 75th percentile) in order to to consider the school to be even a match for you. If you’re within that middle 50%, then it might be a good reach school for you. Below the 25th percentile? That, my friend, is a long shot.

Keep in mind, though, that this is truly just a rough rule of thumb. Statistics aren’t everything! If you’ve got a truly amazing extracurricular achievement or personal story -- we’re talking “I created an app that millions of people use,” not “I co-founded my school’s FBLA chapter” -- that can change your chances at a school significantly.

On the other hand, there are other factors that decrease your chances of admission as well. If you’re aiming for a more competitive major, your statistics will need to be even higher in order to have a good shot at a school. And factors like the rigor of your high school curriculum, the strength of your recommendations, and, oh yeah, all those essays you’ll have to write can have a huge impact on your admission chances as well -- both positive and negative.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that some schools are just a long shot for anyone. If you’re looking at a school that’s ranked inside the top 10 on the US News and World Report, you should think of that school as a long shot -- no matter what qualifications you’ve got. These colleges simply get too many qualified applicants to accept, so you should never assume you’ll be admitted.

None of this should be discouraging! It’s meant only to give you a realistic idea of your chances of getting into the college of your choice. If it’s truly your dream to attend a particular school, then I would absolutely encourage you to go for it. Just be prepared to put extra work into your application and essays, and make sure you’re balancing out that college with some more realistic options. Not sure how to do that? Contact us today for a free consultation, and we’ll tell you all about the hourly and package services we offer.


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