How to Create Your Target List of Colleges to Apply To

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Overview ๐Ÿ’ก

A College List is the list of schools you will eventually apply to! Having a balanced college list means that you are applying to a mix of target, reach, and safety schools. Once you've created this list, you can use this college application checklist template to track your progress on each application.

Benefits of a Balanced College List โš–๏ธ

  • Increases the odds that you will get accepted into several colleges on your list
  • Provides you with more options to consider after acceptances

Target, Reach, and Safety Schools ๐ŸŽฏ

  • Target Schools: over 40% acceptance rate and similar GPA and test score averages to yours
  • Reach Schools: under 40% acceptance rate and/or higher GPA and test score averages than yours
  • Safety Schools: over 70% acceptance rate and/or lower GPA and test score averages than yours

Below is a suggested breakdown of how many target, reach, and safety schools you should apply to. Please note, this is just a guideline. Keep in mind: you can apply to a maximum of 20 schools on The Common App.

  • 7-10 Target Schools
  • 3-5 Reach Schools
  • 3-5 Safety Schools

Tip: When choosing how many schools to apply to, keep in mind that applications are time-consuming, and the cost of application fees is high. Make sure that you are focused on the quality of your application and that each school you apply to is one you would be happy to attend!

Things To Consider When Choosing Schools To Apply To ๐Ÿ’ญ

Creating a college list and eventually applying to colleges requires a lot of research. There are hundreds and thousands of schools across the US with different opportunities, offered majors, and programs. Below is a list of things to consider when choosing schools that are right for you! As you choose schools to apply to, make note of if they use the Common App, Coalition App, a region-specific app, or school specific app.

My College List ๐Ÿ“

You can use this format to organize which schools you are planning on applying to. This will help you create a balanced college list!

Target Schools

Reach Schools

Safety Schools

Early Decision

Please note: Early Decision is BINDING. You can only apply Early Decision to ONE school. If you are applying Early Decision to a school, make sure that it is your top choice school. Check out this guide to learn more about early decision and early action.

Still not sure of what colleges to fill your college list with? Check out this guide for help with deciding on where to apply to college.

For more help, check out this article about the dos and don'ts of college lists!

For a PDF version of this template, click here!


Guide Outline


Admissions Process
College Essay
College Interview
I'm a...
The Application
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