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Don't Forget to Apply to a "Safety" College

tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads Senior Member
edited January 2014 in College Search & Selection
I've noticed that as College Confidential gains more and more participants, we are seeing more and more threads in April after admission decisions are announced in which a student or parent announces with dismay that all the student's applications to "top" colleges were rejected. In today's competitive admission environment, many high school students with fine academic records will not get into their first-choice college, or their second-choice college, or their third-choice college. That's just a hard mathematical fact. Every year on College Confidential, a lot of participants post in April that they were disappointed in their admission results.

But the end of the application process to your dream college doesn't have to be the end of your college dreams. Anyone applying to a top college (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, etc.) ought also be applying to a "safety" college, a college you can count on being admitted to. In previous CC posts, I have defined a safety college as one that

1) is pretty much certain to admit the applicant, based on its known behavior in acting on recent admission applications,

2) has a strong program in an area the applicant is interested in,

3) is affordable based on its known behavior in acting on financial aid applications,


4) is likeable to the applicant.

What college fits the "safety" definition for you? What do you like about it? It's vital to build an application list from the safety college on up, and I appreciate suggestions in this thread about how to do that.

Good luck to the members of high school classes of 2012 and 2013 who are putting together lists of colleges to apply to.
edited January 2014
331 replies
Post edited by tokenadult on
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Replies to: Don't Forget to Apply to a "Safety" College

  • debate_addictdebate_addict 2163 replies144 threads Senior Member
    haha, tokenadult you have a thing for safety school threads :)
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  • momofddmomofdd 97 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Great thread. Our daughter was very interested in languages/international studies when she was applying in 2006. She decided to apply early action to Dickinson, which met her focus requirements, and which she liked a lot. Getting that fat envelope, with lots of merit money to boot, was such a boost after being deferred from Middlebury!
    While she didn't have to use a safety in the end, having that one in the pocket made the waiting of feb. and march a lot easier on the whole household.
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  • CountingDownCountingDown 13570 replies113 threads Senior Member
    Tokenadult, I just cross-posted this on another thread:
    ...what used to be a slam dunk at the flagships aren't any more. Just have to look at the UF forum (and Cal-Davis, Irvine, etc.) to see that kids with stats that would have been a shoo-in just a couple of years ago are now getting waitlisted or rejected. It's great for the flagships, whose stats are rising as they get a sizeable critical mass of super students (our flagship had overflow housing for Honors this year due to the higher-than-expected yield).

    S found submitting EA applications (and priority decision to the flagship) to every school on his list that accepted them was an excellent way of assessing his chances in the pool, and it was sure nice (and surprising) to have two of his top choices in hand in December. We feel doubly grateful now.

    S isn't crazy about a huge school [which the flagship is], but he knew the department he was interested in takes very good care of their undergrads... and that there are many opportunities for a personalized, challenging experience. He also has many, many friends there who are quite happy (as are their parents!).

    Make sure your safety is, in fact, a safety in these times of crazy admissions.

    Unexpected consequence of a college list that has a good mix of schools that my S really likes: he is having an agonizing time trying to decide. Safety offers things (besides $$) that he values; super reach doesn't have some things he values that *are* at his high target schools; those high targets are showing him love and $$, which mitigate the full price. No slam dunk decisions here. He would be happy at any of them.
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  • jude_36jude_36 510 replies33 threads Member
    I should have pointed out that the error we DID make when applying to schools is that we didn't do enough financial aid research. We got several generous packages, but they didn't always come from the schools that I had expected them to. It has been quite an eye-opener for me to see what schools offer what kind of aid, because it was not what I expected. Still, since my daughter chose schools she liked, weeding some out based on aid was not a heart-breaker.
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  • jazzymomjazzymom 3601 replies75 threads Senior Member
    Timely thread topic since I've begun to wonder if there's any such thing as "safety" colleges for the coming admission cycle.

    Private colleges, even those with an admission rate of more than 50 percent, can be entirely subjective and unpredictable in admissions. Public colleges and universities are seeing applications skyrocket and they too are more often using the holistic approach and can be unpredictable.

    For a CA applicant, it's downright scary what has been happening this year to UC admissions in the middle range of UCs (UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara for example). My son's h.s. GC suggested that Davis would be perfect for him, due to its science programs and implied it would be a safety for him considering his GPA and stats. But from reading about UC admissions this year on CC, I know that there can be no assumptions made, no guarantee expected. Next year is probably going to be another year when it's very difficult to tell if a "safety" is really safe.

    As a result, so far, with S2, much more than with S1, we are building the list from the bottom up, making sure to visit likely (not safety) colleges with as much attention as the matches and the few reaches. The list is going to be lighter on reaches and heavier on matches and "highly likelies" and we will stress the need to avoid falling in love until after acceptances are known. And total costs as well.

    Also, I have to say that I'm thinking of travel expense more this time around and colleges in Maine or NH or upstate NY are having less appeal no matter how wonderful they sound. The visit budget is being carefully planned due to the increasing cost of flying.

    For the "likely" colleges on S2's list, so far I'd say the only one I feel sure about might be University of Oregon. (Or, as it is affectionately known in CA, "UC-Eugene"). He also likes U Colorado-Boulder, but being OOS, how safe can we consider admissions there? It's a pretty likely, though.

    And on the private side so far is, University of Puget Sound, a solid and serious academic community set on a lovely, "chill" campus in a bustling small waterfront city (Tacoma) within a 30-minute drive of big-city Seattle. It's definitely on the list. Another possibility, closer to home, might be University of the Pacific, which we haven't visited yet, but sounds like a good option to consider.

    I think it's a good idea to throw out suggestions for "likely" colleges in different parts of the country.
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  • summerinthecitysummerinthecity 252 replies30 threads Junior Member
    My safety is probably going to be CU Boulder, jazzymom. I wouldn't worry about your son not getting in if he is a solid student. Several fairly middle of the road students from my school got in with big scholarships.
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  • theorygeektheorygeek 122 replies13 threads Junior Member
    I feel lucky that my state college (University of Washington) is such a good school. Though it isn't my first choice, I would feel just fine going there.
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  • collegebound40collegebound40 48 replies26 threads- Junior Member
    Just to make sure you're accepted somewhere, I say apply EA or early response to as many interesting colleges as possible. I only applied to one, my top choice, but I kind of regret not applying to more.
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  • Wneckid99Wneckid99 864 replies61 threads Member
    i was just thinking- what if i was the son of tokenadult. no offense to token adult and in no way am i putting the idea down- but tokenadult knows so much abt college/spends a lot of time on this site (btw- do you have a job tokenadult)

    it might be good or bad if my parents do this much about colleges- token adult: do you give your child a lot of freedom in the college process?

    i know this seems like im hating on you tokenadult...im not- i think your a great poster first and prob a great person too. just thinking if i was ur son (im a junior) since my parents dont know the difference between BC and BU
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  • tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads Senior Member
    do you give your child a lot of freedom in the college process?

    He gets to decide where to apply, and he gets to decide where to attend if admitted to more than one college. He's had a lot to do with setting up his high school schedule too, and with shopping for various high schools in town.
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  • tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads Senior Member
    It really is OK if your number 1 school is a safety!

    Oh, yes. If the college is a good college for you, go for it.
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  • jym626jym626 56613 replies2968 threads Senior Member
    I am posting this in this thread as well as the one in the parents forum not so much because I think it is all that important, but I want to get notified when posts are made to each of these threads!
    This is an important thread. Thanks for starting it, Tokenadult.

    This topic was a bit of a hair-raiser in our house, b/c our flagship U, which is not a guaranteed safety anymore, does have an early non-binding notification if the application is in by Nov 1. We visited the school, and DS HATED it. Too big. No way, Refused to apply. Didn't want to have to be in an honors program. The school he decided to use as his safety is expensive, and *way* more expensive than our state school. Fortunately the safety came in with merit money, and it is a school he really likes (and will probably attend) but this was a tough issue. Both his safety and our flagship U are very good schools- but the pricetag is very different. Oh, and guess what. the school he will likely be attending?? He'll be in the honors program! Part of me wishes we'd made him apply to the state U just to see if it would have been another option.. since these kids do change their minds frequently.
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  • mythmommythmom 8292 replies13 threads Senior Member
    I think it's okay to have a "mommy school" on the list: a school the kid does not want to apply to at all but the parent has an intuition that the school might become necessary for financial or other reasons.

    Both my kids agreed to this; both were accepted with a lot of money and neither ended up attending.

    Both grew to like the schools a lot and had their first choices not accepted them, they say they would have chosen the mommy school.

    I was not committed to these schools, but I had reasons for suggesting them.
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  • othermusicdadothermusicdad 73 replies3 threads Junior Member
    FYI - CU Boulder received just over 18000 applications 2 years ago, but it received 24000 this year. They admit just under 16000 students each year and enroll 5600. So they used to admit 88% of the applicants; this year it was about 65%. This info comes from a recently attended admitted students night. I suspect "safety" depends on which college at CU.
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  • ashliehashlieh 123 replies4 threads Junior Member
    My safety was Penn State- main campus. I'm in state and both of my parents went there. I feel in love with my safety and I will be going there this fall.
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  • hsmomstefhsmomstef 3455 replies124 threads Senior Member
    My son is lucky -- CU Boulder is his safety, they still have guaranteed admission for Colorado Residents that meet certain testing requirements. Plus, they offer a combined BA/MA in his major and he would be able to transfer in about 50 hours of coursework. It is too big for his tastes, but he would most likely be in the honors program (which makes it seem smaller) and being able to take graduate level courses in his major (and skip most of the intro /distribution classes due to transferring in classes) which means that his classes would be smaller and more focused. Not bad for a safety.
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