The Rules to Picking a Good Safety School

So, what are your extracurriculars?

By: AM (College Admissions)

“Safety First.” This is one of the most important (or ignored) rules for life. It applies to almost everything, including picking the right college.


Someone I know was forced to go to her safety school was devastated. At her table were a stack of rejection letters from her top college choices. Faced with the reality of going to her safety school, sadness overwhelmed her. She was constantly in tears and saw her rejection letters as a testimony to her failure as a person. Four years later, this same person is a proud graduate from her safety school and about to start a job at a top company. This time the tears were due to having to leave the school that originally was a safety pick.


When picking colleges to apply to, it is HIGHLY recommended that you choose a few safety schools. Safety schools operate as a “Plan B” in case one, unfortunately, does not get into his or her favorite school. Safety schools also act as an alternative if you get into one of your favorite colleges, but cannot afford to attend. Everyone should have a safety school, no matter how much they have achieved in high school.


Safety schools should be colleges that will almost certainly accept you. Another thing to consider in a safety school is the tuition amount. Considering the rising cost of education, some students pursue online degree programs. One may want to pick a safety school that provides one with an opportunity for scholarships and financial aid. A common assumption people have about safety schools is that going to a chosen safety school is the worst-case scenario. This is far from the truth. Realistically, the worst-case scenario is probably a lot more depressing to the high-schooler who despises their safety school.

However, you don’t want to be disappointed in attending your safety school. Enrolling in it should not feel like living hell. If you do not see yourself being happy at a safety school, it would be a good idea to pick a new one. Generally, state schools are great safety schools. They are close to home, provide a good education, and are not too expensive. On the contrary, Ivy League schools and other top schools should NEVER be a safety school. This is because anybody, even if they are an extremely strong candidate, cannot be certain in getting accepted to a top school, simply because they can be very unpredictable when it comes to admissions. It is also important to remember that you always have the option of transferring to a preferred college after a year.

Remember, going to your safety school does not mean that you failed. It does not mean that you will not be successful in life. Look at it in this way: you were smart enough to cautiously plan your future after high school, and are still attending a college that you are satisfied with. You should be proud in graduating from the roller coaster that is high school.

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2 thoughts on “The Rules to Picking a Good Safety School

  1. just found this site through Facebook :)….how many safety schools should you have and how many "stretch schools" (that's what they call them at my highschool)?

  2. It depends. Safety schools should be colleges that you're almost certain you will get into, so some kids just decide on one as their primary backup. However, some people may apply to two or three "safety" schools, so they have some options if they don't get into any of their other choices. As far as stretch schools go, three is a good number. However, don't let this be the deciding factor, as this also depends on one's situation. Just remember, there is no certain number or requirement to meet when picking and applying to colleges. What you want is a good combination of safety schools, reach schools, and stretch schools.

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