A Contrarian View of “Reach”, “Target”, and “Safety” Colleges

Sorting a potential college list into “Reach”, “Target”, and “Safety”, as an indicator of the likeliness of an acceptance, sets a dangerous precedent. 

The applicant essentially imagines themselves at the whims of the admissions officer, devoid of agency, a poverty-like mindset, begging for the charity of an acceptance letter. Applicants seek seeming validation of their efforts, as if an outside force can provide such confidence. 

The applicant can drown in hope that their “Reach” will send an invitation, laying the foundation to be “crushed” (or as one parent characterized, “devastated”), if denied. Furthermore, I’ve witnessed students (and a few parents) question their entire life’s experiences if a “Target” doesn’t offer an acceptance, pride wounded that a college deemed to be an equal, would dain to “reject” them. 

And, if “Safety” colleges are their only option for college, then students believe they’re settling for less than, a recipe for resentments, believing attending such an “ordinary” college “where anyone can be accepted” is unworthy. 

Instead, when screening colleges, students should ask, “Is ____ University the right partner for me, where I’ll discover more about my aptitude and purpose in life?” applicants can be the Select-or, not the Select-ee

Then, through the complicated college essay writing process, formulating arguments why they match a particular college, students can cultivate confidence that the college IS their right partner, earned through the sometimes painstaking self-reflective efforts to know themselves. 

Then, no matter the college decisions in Spring of their senior year, which inevitably include denials, which although students will likely grieve, but recover more efficiently, can more effectively return their focus to selecting a partnering college

Creative Marbles was founded by teachers who appreciate helping students craft insightful essays, first in the academic classroom, now as part of the complex college admissions process. For more information, please contact us

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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