Rule 5: Be Realistic About Your Chances of Admission
Even though it’s perfectly fine to apply to reach colleges, at a certain point, a college may be too much of a reach, and you’d be better served to focus on schools that are more likely to admit you.
Usually, if your GPA and standardized test scores are well below those of the average student at a very selective college (less than a 25% acceptance rate), your odds of gaining admission will be extremely low, and in some cases, virtually nil.
For example, in 2014, at Princeton University, only 2% of admitted students had a GPA below a 3.5. At Yale, out of high schools that provided class rank, 97% of admitted students graduated in the top 10% of their class.
You may still have a realistic chance if there’s something exceptional in your application. If you’re a world-class athlete, the child of a major donor, or you’ve overcome incredibly unique obstacles, you may still have a legitimate shot at admission with subpar grades and test scores. Also, if your grades are on par but you have below-average test scores for a selective college, you may still have a shot of getting in, especially if you’re from a disadvantaged or underrepresented background.