Here at SportsRecruits, we are large proponents of building a strong target list of schools. Casting a wide net of anywhere from 20-30 schools is advice we give to any student-athlete beginning their recruiting journey. Learn more about the five factors you should consider when building your target list of schools HERE.

When building that list of schools, we also recommend that you have a mix of schools that you would consider either a reach, fit or safe option. Sometimes, it is hard to dictate how to rank each school on your list. Here is how you can start to figure out how to rank each school on your list!

What is a Reach School?

A reach school contains a factor that makes it an uphill battle for you to end up competing for that program and enrolling at that school. All it takes is one particular aspect of that school to be considered a reach option. Typically, an academic or athletic requirement will be a barrier for student-athletes.

If the school’s academic requirements are considerably higher compared to what your GPA or test scores are, this would lead to a school being considered a reach option for you. Checking the acceptance rate of a school (especially if it is under 20%) is usually a great tool to determine if a school is likely a reach. If you have a conversation with your high school or club coach, and they tell you that you are likely a low-level DI talent, most top-tier Division I programs will automatically be a reach option for you. A reach option does not mean that a school is an impossible option, but more so something to strive for.

What is a Fit School?

This is the type of school that matches up really well with your academic and athletic profile. Your GPA and test scores are on par with the typical academic requirements. Athletically, you have also received feedback that would lead you to believe this athletic program would test your limits, but be a natural progression for you to compete at after graduation. You should have more fit schools on your list than anything else. If you have 25 schools on your target list of schools, strive to have at least 10 of those programs classified as a “Fit” option.

What is a Safety School?

Schools that you would consider a safety option are schools that you can feel pretty secure about. This means your grades are well above the academic requirements, and you would most likely compete for playing time right away when you get on campus. It is typically easier to classify a school as a safety option after you have had a conversation with the coaching staff, and they have made it clear that they have a high level of interest in you competing for their team.

Who Can I Ask for Help in Ranking my Target List of Schools?

Using the advocates around you is essential to have realistic expectations about the schools on your list. An academic advocate is someone who can really help you with understanding what is necessary to keep your reach schools possible and insight on how to maximize merit scholarships at your fit and safety options. An academic advocate can be a guidance counselor, a college counselor, an advisor, a tutor, or anyone at your school with whom you have a good rapport, and trust their judgment!

An athletic advocate will typically be someone who has the opportunity to see you compete in your sport regularly, who can offer advice and recommendations on what schools you should strive for. Whether it’s a high school coach, club coach, personal coach, or trainer, they can play a major role in advising you to focus on the right type of program, or may even have connections at some of the places you are interested in!

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Mike Babich is a Senior Recruiting Analyst at SportsRecruits. Mike has experience in collegiate athletics as a former football student-athlete at Mount Ida College, as well as a Graduate Assistant and Assistant Football Coach at Long Island University. He also served in the role of an Admissions Counselor for two years at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, New York. He has a passion for helping student-athletes better navigate and understand the recruiting process.