The importance of applying to "reach schools"

The importance of applying to

When applying for college, it's important to apply to a few reach schools.

According to The Princeton Review, "A reach school is one where your academic credentials fall below the school's range for the average freshman. Reach schools are long-shots, but they should still be possible. If you have a 2.0 GPA, Harvard is not a reach school-it's a dream."

Here are three reasons why you should apply to reach schools.

1. Because you might get in

Sure, it's unlikely to get into a reach school, even if your grades are stellar, but by definition it's not impossible.

One thing that may persuade you to apply to reach schools is the fact that colleges look at more than just your GPA or test scores. According to an August 2013 article in the New York Times, "In holistic review, institutions look beyond grades and scores to determine academic potential, drive and leadership abilities." Schools do so by considering your circumstances (such as the rigor of your high school) and activities outside of school. A number of schools follow this process. So while you may not be the most compelling candidate at first glance, holistic review may grant you that extra edge to get in.

And even if you're applying to somewhere like Stanford University in California, which according to the New York Times had a 5.69 percent acceptance rate in 2013, you might as well "throw your hat into the ring," according to MyCollegeOptions.org. "You never know what will happen," according to the site. "It could be a long shot but an admissions officer might just see your potential."

2. To have no regrets

Sure, it's easier to not take risks in life. It would be easier to only apply to schools you'll probably get into (match schools) or will most definitely get into (safety schools). But if you exclude reach schools, you might regret it.

If you think there's even a dash of a chance you'd regret not applying to a certain reach school, then apply. Wondering "what if" is damaging and often a waste of time. It can be avoided by taking risks. You only apply to college once or maybe twice in this lifetime. Don't let the possibility of rejection or the amount of work the application requires dissuade you. Regret often hurts far more and far longer than rejection after hard work.

Just apply and see what happens. Surely, no regret or extreme pain exists in trying.

3. To not give up on your dreams

Sometimes reach schools and dream schools are one and the same. When that's the case, applying to that particular reach school is especially important, since, well, that's your dream. Just make sure your dream truly is your dream.

According to a Scholarships.com article, "Think about what you want out of your college experience, whether that's a school with a strong academic record, impressive athletic teams or diverse social programs and services, and take a hard look at whether you're applying to schools for the right reasons."

After that close examination the article mentions, if your dream school is still your dream school, don't let a fear of rejection or hard work prevent you from applying to it. Dreams are not something only a child is allowed to have. You can follow your dreams until they come true or disappointingly never come true. But at least you'll know you went for your dream, and that will help you recover if you don't get in and find a new dream.

Besides, it's not uncommon for a student to get rejected by their dream school and end up perfectly happy at their backup school. Sometimes the happiness is to the point that their backup school becomes their dream school. So even if you get rejected from your dream school, in a strange way you may still get into a school you never even knew was your dream school. Either way, don't give up on following your dreams.

Reach schools are just that -- a reach, a stretch. But sometimes when you reach out, the school reaches back out to you. And if not, at least you followed your dream without any regrets.


"Choosing the Right School," Scholarships.com. https://www.scholarships.com/resources/college-prep/choosing-the-right-school/

"Confessions of an Application Reader, Lifting the Veil on the Holistic Process at the University of California, Berkeley," by Ruth Starkman, August 1, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/04/education/edlife/lifting-the-veil-on-the-holistic-process-at-the-university-of-california-berkeley.html

"Match, Reach, and Safety Schools," Princeton Review, http://www.princetonreview.com/college/match-reach-safety.aspx

"Reach, Match, and Safety Schools," MyCollegeOptions.org, https://www.mycollegeoptions.org/Core/SiteContent/Students/Advice/College-Resource-Center/College-Search -- -Selection/College-Selection/Reach,-Match-Safety-Schools.aspx

2013 College Acceptance Rates, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/04/15/education/thechoice-2013-acceptance-rates.html/