How to Get a Head Start in Admissions
As colleges announce acceptance rates for the Class of 2026, one thing is for certain: getting into college isn’t getting any easier.
Kristen Moon, contributor at Forbes, recently offered a few tips for how upcoming college applicants can get a head start on their applications this summer and put their best foot forward in a competitive admissions landscape.
BUILD A BALANCED LIST
When applying to colleges, it’s important to have a strategy that balances a variety of safety, target, and reach schools.
Safety schools are defined as schools “where your GPA and standardized test scores are higher than the average admitted freshman,” according to Moon. “The acceptance rate should also be at least 40-45%. Many times your local state schools fall into this category.”
Target schools tend to be schools where your numbers (GPA, test scores) align closely to the average admitted freshman. Moon says the acceptance rate for target schools should be at least 20-40%.
Reach schools are those schools where your numbers fall below the average of admitted students. “Any school with an acceptance rate of less than 20% is considered a reach due to its unpredictability,” Moon says.
Building a realistic, balanced list is key when applying to schools, experts say.
“Students often neglect to look at acceptance rates when making their college lists and will classify an Ivy League as a match or even a safety,” Lindsey Conger, an independent college counselor at Moon Prep, tells Forbes. “Ivy League Schools and many top-ranked universities are a reach for everyone, no matter what your standardized test scores or GPA are.”
While it’s highly unlikely you’ll get to visit every school you apply to, experts say, there’s strategic ways to optimize your campus visits to learn more about what each college has to offer.
For one, you’ll definitely want to visit the top schools on your list to reaffirm that they are indeed your dream schools, Moon says.
“Students considering applying early decision to a school should prioritize visiting because if they are accepted, it is binding, and they are obligated to attend,” Moon writes.
If you aren’t able to visit in-person, Moon recommends attending virtually.
“Schools will hold virtual informational sessions or tours throughout the school year and summer,” she writes. “This can be an excellent opportunity for students to demonstrate interest and learn more about their top choices.”
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