A reach college is one in which it is unlikely that you will be admitted. This might be because your grades and test scores are in the bottom 25% of scores typically accepted by that college. A college might also be a reach because it accepts so few students. In general terms, I tell students that if a college accepts less than 30% of the students who apply, it should be considered a reach for everyone. A college might also be a reach even if you have good grades and test scores if you don’t have strong extracurricular activities.
A match college is one in which your grades and test scores are consistent with the middle 50% of grades and test scores typically accepted by that college. This is particularly true for those colleges that commonly accept between 30 and 60% of the students who apply.
A safety college is one in which you are quite confident that you will be admitted because your grades and test scores are in the top 25% of that colleges typical grades and test scores. These colleges will commonly have greater than 70% acceptance rates.
All of these are broad generalizations and what is a reach school for one student might be a safety for another. The important thing to understand is that in applying to colleges, you MUST make sure that you are applying to some colleges that for you are a pretty sure thing. Otherwise you may be scrambling in May of your senior year trying to find colleges that are still accepting students.
And trust me, you don’t want to be that kid.