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Your college list is a list of schools you are interested in applying to. Do some of the schools on your list make you cringe? 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 you would LOVE to go – these schools are basically your life’s ambition.

Target Schools

Where you would LIKE to go – all great fits for you.

Likely Schools

Where you would be happy to attend if you didn’t get into one of my top choices.

If you only have one or two schools that you’d actually be happy going to, then it’s time to re-think your list.


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 prime 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 you to get in, but you should still apply.

Target Schools

You really like these schools and you are the type of candidate they are looking for.

Likely Schools

You like these schools and know that you will be a rockstar candidate.


We 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 proudly call your alma mater. Always remember that life has a funny of way of working itself out!