Loving Your Safety School

It’s that time of year again, where students and parents flock to College Confidential boards wondering why with great grades, incredible test scores and very good LORs - they were deferred or denied at many/most/all of the schools to which they applied.

Experienced posters will explain how competitive college admission has become, how many incredible applicants there truly are (more than most can comprehend when they start this process), and the seeming randomness of competitive college admission decisions.

The concept of the Safety School will come up. And this is where many times, a student and/or parent will say they do have an acceptance…to a school they don’t want to attend/can’t pay for/aren’t excited about.

Every family should begin a college search from the bottom up. Finding (at least) one safety school that your child is guaranteed to be accepted to (or as close to guaranteed as possible), that your child would be excited to attend, and that your family can afford is the most important school on every child’s list.

I would love this thread to be a place for families and students to share the safety schools they found/fell in love with. How they did it, what criteria they used, surprises learned along the way. Maybe also sharing what benefits their child discovered either during the college search process, or while attending their safety school would also be helpful.


One of my kids applied to college in fall 2005 to start fall 2006…so it’s been a while. She applied initially only to three schools all of which were deemed sure things for admission…

Santa Clara University (where she went)
University of South Carolina (where she didn’t go…but received a HUGE scholarship had she chosen it)
University of San Diego.

This kid was top 5% of her graduating class…but she couldn’t crack 1250 on the SAT.

Still…at the time, these were very attainable colleges for her. And she liked them all.

I should add…we told both of our kids not to waste a dime of money or a minute of time applying to colleges they didn’t like. With the large number of colleges in this country…find something you like!

And I will add….EVERY kid needs a sure thing for admission that is affordable that they like…every kid. This thread I’m going to link is an old one but should be mandatory reading for everyone. This kid did land on his feet…but not without a bit of angst first.


Thank you for starting this thread!

My D had two safety schools that she would have been happy to attend, that fit her main college criteria of a very hands on engineering curriculum, well supported optional co-op, career readiness focus, and a collaborative campus vibe.

As a family we were risk adverse so she picked two schools with 70%+ acceptance rates where her stats were well over the 75th percentile. One was rolling admission so she had her offer the first week in October.

Her two safeties were Clarkson and U of Akron (rolling admission). She absolutely would have been happy at either and we know lots of people who went on to have great careers out of both schools.


And I apologize for the bad formatting…this is because of the change in platforms for this site! I wish this hadn’t happened.


My son is a senior at his safety, Binghamton University in NY.

He applied to 7 colleges. He had great scholarships at a couple of schools. He was accepted with a transfer option at a university in the top 25.

He knew of students from our district who were very happy at Bing. He went for an overnight and came home saying that he felt he would make friends there.

My husband and I had reservations because our son always said he wanted a big rah rah school with lots of tailgating. Binghamton has plenty of school spirit, but it’s not known for big sports. There is no football team. But he was right and we were wrong. He loves it.

He was far more mature at the time than we gave him credit for. When making his final decision, he said, “I’m not going to be $50,000 a year happier at a more expensive school.”

We’re glad he is there and we hear plenty of stories of students landing good jobs after they graduate. It’s not a glamorous school, but it has a high retention rate and is great value for money.


Thanks @Lindagaf - good to hear this. My daughter got into Binghamton, but she’s not so excited about the town itself. My husband and I are very gung ho about it for many reasons, but especially because every kid I know who has gone there has loved it (it’s very popular around here). Glad to hear another success story.


Great thread. Would it reach a wider audience in College Search & Selection or College Admissions?


I think parents need to see this one. My opinion. It’s sort of too bad we can’t have two threads linked…one for student audience and one for parent.

I doubt it will reach a wider audience in the other locations.


You know, the town has really grown on me. It’s not lovely, but let me tell you, downtown is HOPPING! There are tons of restaurants and the students go out downtown. Bing runs a shuttle until the wee hours between campus and downtown. There are museums, the river, and parks. There are some lovely old “painted lady” Victorian houses. And the surrounding area is a nature lover’s paradise.


I agree. I was actually going to post the same thing as @lkg4answers. Would it get too messy to create another thread in College Admissions, perhaps add tags that are appropriate for the high school audience and then just post the link to this thread to direct them here? Does that make sense?

ETA: Thank you for creating this thread @beebee3 !

ETA2: @Lindagaf Is there a best practice for this?

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If there is a way to cross-post with the College Search/Selection or Admission thread - I’m happy to have that happen. :smiling_face:

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I’ve pinned it for six months in the College Admissions forum because I think that over the long run, both students and parents will see it there.


My S was very fortunate as a safety school he really liked had rolling admissions and he was accepted by late October. It was a big deal (especially after some EA deferrals in December) to know he had a good option in hand that early. It also saved him from having to apply to additional safety schools as this was his favorite of the group. Due to a nice scholarship the college was a contender in the end but he did attend elsewhere.

IMO it is easy to pick out big name colleges to apply to but every applicant should do the work and seek out safety schools (for both admissions and finances) that they could happily attend. I’d also suggest applying non-binding EA/rolling to one or two safety schools if possible - an early acceptance can take a lot of pressure off the rest of the process.


Good for him!! And I’m impressed that Binghamton was his safety! As I’m sure you know, it’s gotten crazy competitive! That’s great to hear that he’s thriving.


S23’s list was built on safties. Luckily for him, the top schools in his major were not necessarily top 20/top 50 schools. We started with schools that were “very likely” for him to get into (finances were not an issue) and he researched the crap out of them. He had a good sense of what he wanted in terms of size, location, and student life by the time we started visits. Once he had fallen in love with a few and had a top three on the list we opened it up to some reaches, but he didn’t find anything that he thought was a better fit or would provide him with a better outcome.

We had a good idea of what he would ultimately pay at his top three choices as they were transparent on their websites about university wide auto consideration merit. He did get departmental merit as well which we were not expecting. He is now doing accepted student revisits for two (one was crossed off the list due to how difficult it was to get there).

I have to say, I think his/our process was a good one. There was no stress or surprises. I felt that all of the schools were on his list because they were a good fit rather than because of some rank in a magazine.


We are still in the midst of a college search for D24, but after a campus tour last fall, she decided that U of A is definitely a school where she could see herself being happy to attend.

It’s in state for us. We can afford it. It has many options of majors in the realm of D24’s interests. She likes the dorms. Likes the vibe on campus. And she’ll definitely get admitted.

We’ve also decided to not even tour colleges that are not affordable according to the NPC on the respective schools’ websites. I sort of look at it like, “Why go test drive a Maserati when there’s no way we can ever afford one?”

I must admit…it’s a relief knowing that there’s at least ONE safety school that my kid could see herself happy at. It takes a lot of the stress off.


We knew from Naviance that he would almost certainly get in. It wasn’t a safety for all at his school, of course.


Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas or Alaska?

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The ONLY U of A…Arizona, of course! :slightly_smiling_face:

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