How to Build a College List (Part 2: Match Schools)

Match schools are the meat that make up any applicant’s college admissions list. To the applicant, all the schools belonging in this group are ones that they believe have as good of a shot as anyone to get in. But what exactly constitutes this quality? College admissions have become increasingly muddled and the criteria has become increasingly gray. So before an applicant starts putting down “match” schools on his or her list, he or she should consider a few points.

  • Test Scores: How did the applicant do on standardized tests in comparison to other students who have previously gone to the school? In general, an applicant should fall right in the middle quartile range for his or her scores. Due to the many different grading scales used by schools worldwide for their classes, these tests are the closest college admission offices get to getting a uniform data set to compare applicants against each other. Regardless of where an applicant is from, tests like the SAT/ACT are all on a single scale which, when looking through thousands upon thousands of applicants, can give admission officers a chance to efficiently filter out qualified applicants.
  • High School GPA: Even with college admissions becoming increasingly difficult to analyze, an applicant’s GPA always carries a significant amount of weight. A key thing about GPA is when comparing him or herself to others, an applicant should make sure to use his or her high school peers as a benchmark of comparison for GPA and not the university’s acceptance average. When comparing how well they did in school, admission offices judge an applicant’s school performance against the people in his or her class who are also applying as well and not against all the applicants applying. For most schools, this information is not too hard to find on platforms such as Naviance or simple school rankings.
  • Extracurricular Activities: Given that the majority of applicants who apply to an applicant’s match schools will have similar statistics, what differentiates each applicant from the next in college admissions is what do they outside of class. Whether it be school sports or community involvement, extracurriculars are going to be the “it” factor that could make or break the admission decision. Because at the end of the day, numbers can only tell so much about an applicant but stories such as being varsity team captain or volunteering at local food banks are something that will make an applicant stand out above his or her peers.

No applicant should ever expect to get into all their match schools, but these schools are definitely institutions to remain optimistic about unlike reach schools. That being said, just like safety schools, applicants need to make sure that they classified the school correctly and that they’re qualified on all three fronts with GPA, test scores, and extracurriculars. This means doing the proper research and making sure those three categories are up to date so that college admissions may just be a tad easier to decipher.

Questions? Let us know!