How to Pick Safety Schools
You should aim for your dream colleges in the college application process, but you can’t be certain of anything. It's important to apply to at least one college where you're guaranteed acceptance. These colleges are known as safety schools and provide students with a backup plan in case they aren't accepted at more competitive colleges.
Here’s how to choose a safety school:
Defining Safety Schools
A safety school is any college or university at which you have an 80 percent chance or higher of being accepted. Although you can never be sure whether a college will admit you, compare your SAT or ACT scores and GPA to a college’s average. You should be in the 75th percentile or above for a college to be considered a safe bet.
Determining Your Options
Your safety schools should be colleges you could see yourself attending if you only were accepted there. For many applicants, these are public, in-state schools with higher acceptance rates and lower tuition costs. Small or lesser-known private colleges also qualify as safety schools. Often, safety schools resemble reach schools. If your dream college is a liberal arts college in the northeast, consider other colleges nearby or those with similar student body sizes.
Settling a List of Safety Schools
Once you’ve determined the profile of your ideal safety school, start making a list. Most students aim for at least one to three colleges. More than three will detract from the time you spend on other, more competitive applications. Consult college rankings and make a note of tuition prices — you don’t want to end up admitted to colleges that are out of your budget. Finally, be sure you actually like each college.
Applying to Safety Schools
Fill out applications with as much effort as you'd spend on any other college. Admissions officers can tell when a student doesn't care about being accepted. Do your best work.