Your List Should Contain Targets, Reaches, and Safeties
Based on your grades, test scores, and social, personal, and extracurricular attributes, start to narrow down your list of schools to those into which you have a reasonable or high probability of getting in. Then, learn as much as possible about each school’s climate, culture, and history. Follow the sports teams and special activities. If you live close enough, go on campus to see a game. Follow students on social media as they travel abroad. Attend a play or performance at a school. The more you know about each school and its culture, the better prepared you will be to hit home runs on your application essays and in your interviews. Your school list should be composed of Schools you are likely to get into, schools that you have a fair chance to get into, and schools that are seemingly a stretch based on your academic record and test scores. Generally speaking, a list should have more reaches than safeties, and should have at least three target schools.
One major difference to look for is school size. Some schools have extremely small student bodies, as small as 30 to 50 students per academic class, while others have as many as 300 per class. The average is right around 135 per class. While very small schools may have an advantage when it comes to individualized attention, they may lack the facilities and overall experience that are the hallmarks of many private schools. Therefore, if giving your child the opportunity to participate in many activities (art, music, academics, activities, traditions) is important to you, you may want to stay away from schools with less than 100 students per academic class.