How to Strengthen Your College List
One of the first steps in your college planning process is searching for and exploring colleges. Creating an initial college list gives you a sense of what you’re looking for in a college and encourages you to set goals.
After you build your college list and get closer to applying to college, strengthen your list to include at least 3 reach colleges, 2 match colleges, and 1 safety college. This way you can identify schools that could be a good fit for you, even colleges you may not have considered before. Plus, strengthening your college list is one of the six key actions laid out in the College Board Opportunity Scholarships program—you can earn a chance at $500 for college when you complete this step.
Learn about eligibility and deadlines on our College Board Opportunity Scholarships blog post.
How are reach, match, and safety colleges defined?
The Strengthen Your College List scholarship defines reach, match, and safety based on how the SAT or ACT® score you enter compares to those of last year’s freshman class.
- A Reach College: When your SAT or ACT score is lower than the average score range of last year’s freshman class.
- A Match College: When your SAT or ACT score is solidly in the same score range as last year’s freshman class.
- A Safety College: When your SAT or ACT score is higher than the average score range of last year’s freshman class.
Don’t forget that your college search shouldn’t be limited to your score. Be sure to use the College Search Tool filters. Take type of college, location, campus setting, cost, majors, and learning environment into consideration when deciding where to apply.
How do you add 3 reach colleges, 2 match colleges, and 1 safety college to your college list?
- Sign in to your free College Board account. (Opt in to the College Board Opportunity Scholarships if you haven’t already.)
Go to My Action Plan, then Strengthen Your College List. Select Edit Your List.
- Enter your SAT or ACT score.
- Add 3 reach colleges 2 match colleges, and 1 safety college.
- You can directly search for the colleges you’re interested in.
- You can search by all colleges, reach colleges, match colleges, or safety colleges.
- You can sort colleges by alphabetical order, average cost after aid, or graduation rate.
- You can filter further by regions/states, type of college, and college size.
Check back to My Action Plan, and make sure you’ve completed your entry.
Why is it important to have a balanced list?
By having a balanced list, you’re adding colleges you may not have considered before. Research shows additional college applications can increase a student’s chances of enrolling in a four-year college.
The Strengthen Your College List scholarship, with its reach, match, and safety stipulation, encourages a practical approach toward developing a balanced college application portfolio. You should build a list of colleges that reflect your wants and needs, but you should also make sure to choose colleges that can meet those needs and help you succeed. As you narrow your list and decide where you want to apply, be sure to consider, among other things, location, cost, size, and majors offered to see which colleges are a good social, financial, and academic fit for you.
For other frequently asked questions, visit the Strengthen Your College List scholarship detail page.
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