In fire safety, everyone knows it's Stop, Drop and Roll. In college applications, the buzz words are Reach, Target and Safety!

We all know the drill --

Reach schools are those whose admissions criteria you don't quite nearly meet, if you meet at all. These are your "give it a shot" colleges.

Target schools are those where your academics, extracurriculars, test scores fit squarely within the range of accepted students. No guarantee, but you feel pretty confident that if you apply, you'll get in.

Lastly, Safety schools are just that, safe bets. Not necessarily colleges for flunkies and those who graduate 999 out of a class of 1000, but where your record and accomplishments clearly exceed the schools' admission criteria and acceptance statistics.

As a rule of thumb -- and a matter of family economics -- we suggest applying to three (3) colleges in each category, for a total of 9. [That much math, we can do! :-)] You will, in doing this, cover all the bases, and virtually assure yourself of acceptance to a college that you actually want to go to.

Which colleges are your Reach, Target and Safety schools? Obviously, they differ for each student. For some, Target may be MIT or Stanford, while Safety may be NYU. For others, Reach may be the College of the Ozarks. [Not that there's anything wrong with College of the Ozarks, so hold those nasty emails! ;-)]

How will you know which colleges you should apply to, and whether a particular school is Reach, Target or Safety? First and foremost, consider what you're looking for in a college. Urban or suburban. Large school or small. Northeast or Sun Belt. And so on. Consider the particular programs (if any) you are interested in studying. Factor in such things as distance from home, public or private, campus life, housing options, and, of course, costs. This should narrow down your "list" somewhat.

Speak, for sure, with your Guidance Counselor, college planning consultant, parents, friends already in college, and parents of friends already in college. Then, too, visit the websites of colleges that have piqued your interest. Take a virtual campus tour. And do call upon the college admissions offices with any questions you may have. They are always glad to help.

Once you've got your "list" under 100 -- we jest, but you catch our drift -- what next?

Well, for starters, begin to pare down that list by Reach, Target and Safety schools. How? Well, as in life, there are no absolutes. There are, however, a number of websites which can give you some idea of where you fit in a college's admission scheme.

Check out, for instance,, where you can search for colleges and get a feel for whether you're a "match," (formerly, What Are My Chances?), and Educated guesstimates, of course, based on prior years' applicants, admissions and acceptances, but relatively good places to calculate where you stand in line. [Best of all, they are all FREE!]

And , for the iPhone, iPad and iWhateverIsNext generation, yes, there's a College Matching App for that! [Available for download, free of charge.]

You may also want to look at In Like Me, for application and admissions pointers, and, yes, don't forget about your old friends of SAT fame, College Board, where you will likewise find college search and match tools.

Still confused, overwhelmed or downright stumped? Understandable. There are nearly 4000 colleges to choose from in the U.S. Tweaking the list down to 9, give or take a university or two, is no easy task.

That's where College Connection comes in, helping you select colleges that are the perfect fit for you ("best" being a relative term, as in which school is "best" for you), and then, helping you, every step of the way, through the application and admissions process.

The task may appear daunting. The "where, when and how" insurmountable. While the college application process may seem tantamount to circumnavigating the globe without a compass, guess what? College Connection has that compass!

Stay calm. Stay cool. Stay in the know. Stop. Drop. Roll? Not this time. Now, it's Reach. Target. Safety!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.
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