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What Are Match Schools?

By Savannah Dawson

Prior to coming to Scholarships360 for her first internship in 2022, Savannah utilized her campus publications by joining various fashion publications that are offered at Ohio University. One of those publications is Thread Magazine, where Savannah has had the opportunity to work on articles related to world-wide related fashion news and events, as well as articles closer to home, such as a fashion piece on Athens hometown-hero Joe Burrow. This year, Savannah also had the opportunity to be a content writing intern for Aiken House, as well as a section editor for Southeast Ohio Magazine. In 2023, Savannah served as the Chapter President of her sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta. These collective experiences, as well as her experience currently working for Ohio University’s Undergraduate Admissions, has led her to Scholarships360 and aided in her passion for helping students better understand the college admissions process and financial aid. In her free time, Savannah enjoys horseback riding, watching Formula One races, traveling, and spending time with her friends and family. Savannah will graduate from Ohio University in May 2024 with a degree in Journalism News and Information and a certificate in Italian Studies.

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Reviewed by Bill Jack

Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: January 31st, 2024
What Are Match Schools?

When applying for colleges, there are many terms that college admissions advisors use that you might not completely understand yet. We are here to help you better understand these terms! 

For example, “what is a match school?” Let’s dive into what that means and why you should be familiar with them!

What is a match school?

A match school is a college or university in which your academics fit the criteria for a candidate of admission. Although a match school may or may not be a student’s first choice, they have a very good chance of acceptance. 

A match school is sometimes also called a “target school,” because some admissions professionals feel that saying “match” makes a school seem easy to get into. This is not the case because of the highly competitive environment of all colleges and universities. 

What’s a reach school?

To identify a match school, it’s first important to understand what a reach school is. A reach school is, in short, a school that a student has a low probability of getting into. 

Once you have identified which schools on your list are reach schools for you, it will be easier for you to see which schools are match schools. These should be schools that you really want to attend, but would not be as difficult for you as one of your reach schools. 

Related: How to choose a college

How many match schools should I apply for?

You should apply for three or four match schools, depending on how many colleges you are applying to in general. You want to make sure that you have options when it comes to which one you could potentially choose– but, you also don’t want only match schools filling up your list of applications. 

Students can apply for as many colleges as you would like to, but you also have to keep in mind the cost of college applications and the time spent filling them out. Not every college application is a part of the Common Application. 

See also: Tips for Successful College Applications

Why should I apply to match schools?

You should apply for a few match schools because it’s important to have colleges that you have a great chance of getting into on your list. Obviously you want to have a few reach schools and likely schools as well, to make sure that you have an array of schools to choose from. You want to challenge yourself, make sure you feel comfortable, and make sure that you have something to fall back on. 

If I don’t get into my match schools, should I apply again next year?

Yes, you should if it’s a school that you really enjoyed and could see yourself at. If not, look at your options and assess how you feel about those colleges. It’s always worth submitting another application if you feel that this school is one that you really want to attend. 

Don’t forget, you should also be applying to likely schools, as well. This means that if you didn’t get into your reach or match schools, you should have a few more options to pick from. If you decide you really do not want to go to the likely schools you got into, or that you are able to defer for a year to try again, re-applying is always an option. 

Final thoughts for students

Match schools are important for students in their college application process. When applying for your match schools, you want to look for schools that are less competitive in nature than that of your reach schools to give yourself a distinction between the three categories of schools. 

Additional resources

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed in your college application process, that is completely understandable. That is why Scholarships360 has prepared tons of resources for students to help this time feel a little less stressful. Learning more about what colleges want to see on a college application, or how to complete the various sections of the Common Application does not have to be difficult.  

We can also guide you through getting letters of recommendation, deciding how many colleges to apply to, and improving your SAT score. And don’t forget to fill out the FAFSA and/or the CSS Profile in order to be eligible for financial aid! Best of luck on your applications and make sure that you apply for all the scholarships you qualify for!

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Frequently asked questions about match schools

Do you get more scholarship money from match schools

Not necessarily. Financial aid packages depend on when you apply and the school. Some schools receive more funding than others, which impacts how much they can give to prospective students. However, you can always ask for a school to match an offer made by another college.

How do I know what my match schools are?

You can likely find out your match schools by speaking with your school or college advisor. It can also be determined by having an SAT ranking in the 25th-75th percentile for a school.

What’s the difference between a match and safety school?

  Similar to a match school, a safety school is a guarantee that you’ll be accepted. However, a safety school has a much higher chance of accepting you as it is the “safe” option if any of your applications don’t go the way you want them to. A match school is likely to accept you, but at a slightly lower percentage in comparison to a safety school.

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