Transforming Your College List Mindset

The myOptions Team

Do you cringe at the idea of going to some of the schools on your list? The surprising truth is that a lot of students apply to schools they have ZERO interest in actually attending. Think about your list for a minute. Does it look something like this:

Dream Schools: Where I would LOVE to go - these schools are basically my life’s ambition.

Target Schools: Where I would LIKE to go - all great fits for me.

Safety Schools: Where I would go and be happy if I didn’t get into one of my top choices.

If not, and you only have one or two schools that you’d actually be happy going to, then think your list through again.

Consider this: If someone asked you to make a list of people to date for the next four years, wouldn’t you want to make sure all these people were exciting, attractive options? If, on the other hand, your list started with celebrities and trickled down to those you'd only consider if they were the last people on earth, then you're going to have problems.

A better approach is to start at the bottom and move up. You should make it your mission to find the one or two “safety schools” that are awesome options for you to succeed and not bad places to spend four years. You should be a rockstar candidate given their admission criteria. If you can think of ten things you HATE about a safety school (or even a few), then it's not a safe choice at all!

Next, identify two or three target schools that you have a pretty good chance of impressing with your college application. These colleges are a great step up with some of the same characteristics that you like about your safety schools and some of the perks that you love about your reach schools. So rather than putting all your eggs in your Dream School basket, let’s reframe the way you think about your list to look more like this:

Reach Schools: These schools would be awesome to attend, but based on their admission criteria, it would be a stretch for me to get in, but I should still apply.

Target Schools: I really like these schools and I am the type of candidate they are looking for.

Safety Schools: I like these schools and know that I will be a rockstar candidate.

We definitely encourage you to apply to two or three reach schools with confidence, knowing that if they say “no”, you have a handful of other options that you would be proud to call your alma mater. Always remember that life has a funny of way of working itself out.

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