Differences Between Reach, Target & Safety Schools

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Differences Between Reach, Target, and Safety Schools

Finding the right MBA program is tough.

Typically, the rule of thumb is to apply to roughly five to seven programs.

Stacy Blackman, of Stacy Blackman Consulting, recently discussed how applicants can think strategically about the MBA school selection process by organizing schools into three categories: reach, target, and safety.


Prestigious schools such as Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School often make applicants’ list of “reach” schools.

These b-schools often boast single-digit acceptance rates making them notoriously competitive to gain an acceptance letter.

Blackman says it’s important for applicants to ask themselves why they want to pursue an MBA when selecting schools to apply.

“Is getting an MBA degree your top goal? Or, is getting an MBA from a specific school what really matters most?” Blackman writes. “If you’d truly feel at peace with never getting an MBA if you didn’t get into School X, then you can move forward by focusing all of your efforts solely on your dream school or schools.”


Schools that fall into the “target” category should be based on how closely your candidacy falls when compared to admitted students.

“As a general guideline, take a look at MBA programs you like where your profile falls within the top 10 percent of admitted students,” Blackman writes.

Take into consideration data such as undergraduate GPA, GMAT/GRE score, years of work experience, and industry when comparing to accepted applicants.


Safety schools, according to Blackman, don’t necessarily mean “bad or less desirable” schools.

Rather, when determining whether to apply to safety schools, Blackman suggests applicants to ask themselves how important it is for them to attend b-school next year.

“Maybe you have a compelling reason you need to exit your job and make a move to grad school ASAP,” Blackman writes. “If so, including safety schools among your targets is a smart strategy. If the need is immediate, then definitely include a range of schools of varying degrees of competitiveness.”

Sources: Stacy Blackman Consulting, P&Q

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