When applying to colleges, students are often encouraged to apply to reach, match, and safety schools. These categories describe the likelihood of students being admitted based on how closely their qualifications match those required by the colleges. A safety school is one where students qualifications would easily put them in the top quarter of applicants and ensure their acceptance.
A safety school should be a financial safety as well. If the student can’t afford to attend the safety school, then it isn’t really a safety school.
Safety schools should be colleges that the student wants to attend. Students should take as much time selecting safety schools as they do in selecting match and reach schools. Between the unknowns of the admission and financial aid process, treating the selection of safety schools as an after-thought is a recipe for disappointment. If students don’t understand the process well enough to recognize the possibility of attending a safety school, what other areas might they have less than realistic perceptions?
One issue concerning safety schools is that some colleges know that they are considered safety schools for applicants aspiring to some of the most competitive colleges in the nation. They may see these applicants as less likely to attend their institution if accepted. Therefore, they reject these applicants in favor of others more likely to attend the school and require less financial incentive to do so.