Sometimes I like to describe a college list like a house; build one with a strong foundation, and it won't collapse on you. Here's what I mean:
1. Think of the "likely" or "safety" schools on your list as the foundation, or base, of your college "house". We trust that your student will be accepted there, and you are confident that good news will be coming your way. The width of the foundation gets wider for each likely school on your list.
2. Think of the "target" schools on your list as the 2nd floor of your college house. We expect 50-75% of these schools to accept your student, and in order to keep our house stable, we want it just as wide (number of schools) or a bit narrower than the foundation layer.
3. Finally, think of the "reach" schools on your list as the top floor of your house. If the top floor is much wider than the lower two floors, your house is too top heavy, and your student may have too few options after admissions decisions are sent out, which would feel like a house collapsing on your student's future. If the first two floors are wide enough, add as many reach schools as you like.
Of course, I like all colleges on the list to be great academic, social, and financial fits for your student. Ask me how...