Loving Your Safety School

Do not ignore the emails and outreach from safeties this time of year. It can be scholarships, fellowships, free summer programs, special housing, etc…

D21 had a well balanced list of high reaches, pretty likely, and safeties. About a third in each category. About 15 or 16 total I think.

She was fortunate to end up with acceptances in each bucket. There were deferrals and rejections along with acceptances in the high reach bucket and in the competitive merit rounds offered at some others - we soon realized those merit rounds were more selective than the high reaches.

Along the way she fell in love with the one that was showing her the most love. It was a safety with a unique program that had sparked some interest when researching college, but that she had not visited (except when under 5 - so that does not count - lol). She had nearly forgotten about applying since she had a few other safeties and EA application time was busy.

She took it personally when a local college did not try to entice her more even though she had just applied their because we made her during Covid when the idea of paying thousands for remote virtual was not appealing. Reflecting after not getting more money, she realized she had not put 100% into the interviews or even responding in a timely manner.

That experience and another round of merit interviews at another university prepared her for what she thought was a small scholarship at the safety. She is now thriving at UNH and turned down an Ivy and other higher ranked schools to be there. She ended up with a full scholarship, but that was not the deciding factor - it had not even been awarded yet.

There are so many great opportunities at all colleges. Rank does not determine the experience they will have, but not acting on opportunities offered now can impact their experience if that is where they go.


Great idea for a thread! When our kids were beginning to think about the process and trying to wrap their heads around what they may or may not want for their college experience, the first thing we did was to take them to a few schools where they were very qualified for and Naviance showed that virtually everyone from their school with similar stats had been accepted. Starting with the “safety” schools first and bringing them to a state school, a private university and a smaller LAC where they were pretty certain to be accepted definitely took the pressure off and allowed them to focus on what they liked or did not like for themselves personally about each type of school.

They could then build their lists from schools similar to the ones they liked and had a very good chance of being accepted to, and decide which other schools would be a good match for them. Prepx3D’s 2nd choice was one of her safeties, and she has definitely commented that she would have loved going there and it was super helpful finding a place she really liked that she had an extremely high chance of getting into.


We didn’t consider Bing a safety obviously, but I guess I thought it was a target? Or at least just over target? We were definitely not expecting a deferral… we’ll see I guess!!! She is into 4 schools( and two more still out besides Binghamton) with at least one she LOVES that she’s in with good merit, so I’m so happy for that. I definitely think she’ll end up where she belongs!!


I haven’t received any of my decisions yet, but I would definitely love to attend my main safety, which is the University of Iowa. I chose it because I’ve been to Iowa City and really liked the vibe, their downtown was so much fun and the UofI campus was nice too. They also have an amazing writing program and good school spirit. Plus, I qualify for in-state tuition there on top of the fact that my stats give me a decent chance of getting some kind of scholarship. Coupled with the fact that it’s my dad’s alma mater, it was kind of a no-brainer for me. I also applied to Syracuse University, a bit more in the reach category but still a pretty good shot at not only admission but merit aid. Loved the research opportunities they have and really liked the area it’s in, since I really want to study in New York state but don’t know if I’m quite cut out for NYC. If I don’t get into any reaches, I still think I’ll really enjoy my college experience :slight_smile:


Very smart thinking, and I hope it works out. Fingers crossed!

I wanted to emphasize something brought up by @Pathnottaken , whose student clearly can handle the most rigorous schools. Lest anyone be mislead into thinking that “safety” means “easy,” that is not the case. There are colleges with really high acceptance rates that are very rigorous. I’d wager the majority are, in fact.

My son has certainly struggled at times at Binghamton. At one point (during Covid, but still) he was failing a class. He had to bust his butt (met with TA and prof, got a tutor) to bring that grade up to a C, but he did it. He also joined a frat, and I think he might have a tiny bit of regret about letting his grades suffer during that time, but he is still in the frat and loves it. His school absolutely is rigorous.

I hope no one makes the mistake of choosing a safety because they think they won’t have to work hard.


This is 100% true.
It’s an element of the process that sometimes gets left out of discussions about deciding on safeties, reaches, etc. It was the main wildcard for D17.
For S23, half of his schools were safeties, but to get the most merit at any of those three would be about as long a shot as getting into the “easier” of his two reaches. His one target school was really only affordable with the largest merit, which he didn’t get a chance to interview for, but he is trying to cobble some scholarships together to make it a possibility. If not, he will be happy at his safeties (at least at two of them.)


100% @Lindagaf !

Calc 2 and Linear are tough everywhere even for top students. There have been tears! There have been some Bs in final grades that were only put on a curve at the very end of the semester so she had no idea where she really was grade wise 99% of the semester. She is surrounded by top students from all over who are being challenged.

She stays in touch with friends at other colleges who are also majoring in engineering or STEM majors. Her class sizes have been smaller than some higher ranked colleges. She has had opportunities to work on actual community impact engineering projects.

S19 has had similar experiences at the lower ranked college where he transferred to after he realized his first choice was not for him during the first semester when he no longer wanted that long term dream major. He ended up staying at the local college he thought he would be at for one semester because Covid hit. His classes were certainly not easy. He was a top 10% student in high school with high test scores and this college was not even on his radar as an option as he had looked down on it as too easy. He has struggled with some gen ed requirements that were not anticipated as he did not think he was going to stay. He chose a different foreign language to pursue in college than in High school and 201 was a D and he still needed to pass 202…it was a nail biter.


Paging @tsbna44 who has at least one student at their safety.


We’re going through this process now and…it’s going OK!

D23 has had one dream school for as long as I can remember. Literally going back to elementary school, this was THE COLLEGE she planned to go to. End of story. Unfortunately, dream school has an acceptance rate of 14% and dropping.

She of course applied to dream school, and applied to several other back up schools, because she knew she had to, but was pretty upfront about the fact that if dream school didn’t come through, she would be devastated and had zero interest in attending any of the other schools she’s applied to.

However, she recently got an acceptance at one of her back up schools. Not only an acceptance, but a nice merit scholarship and an invitation to apply for the honors program. All the communication she has received has been warm and personalized and she has been so impressed. She is really feeling the love from them and that has opened her mind to what they are offering her. And she’s really enthusiastic about it!

She hasn’t received a decision yet from dream school. And a part of her realizes that, even if accepted, they likely won’t love her like back up school does - to dream school, she’ll just be one of thousands and, if she turns them down, they will have a long waitlist to choose from. She won’t be any loss to them.

If accepted at dream school, it is likely she will go there (if only for practical reason of cost, length of commute, etc). But the decision between dream school and back up school has become A LOT harder than she ever anticipated.

She is starting to love back up school as much, and perhaps in some ways more, than dream school. And she now feels what back up school has offered her is a big win, rather than a consolation prize. Shows you what a little love from a college can do.


Our daughter had a college she claimed she loved also for MANY years…Many. I was thrilled because it was a good school, easily attainable for acceptance, and affordable. And it meant NO more college visits!

Well…at the end of 10th grade, I mentioned this school to her. She replied “I don’t want to go to college in Texas”. The school was in Texas!

Good luck to your daughter. It’s nice when they open their minds to additional options…and consider them.


My son is now in his third year of veterinary school at a safety school he chose while in high school. We never would have believed our son from a large TX city would end up in college at Kansas State. Why there? Early admit program to vet school, great OOS scholarships, great college town, and a campus he fell in love with when he saw it. The faculty was friendly and welcoming from day one and the students all seemed genuinely happy. After 5 1/2 years we will say all that was true and more. He is happy, top of his class and engaged to a wonderful young lady he met his second week of school (now in PA school).

He found the school at a local college fair. He chose to only apply to safety schools. He wanted land grant universities with veterinary schools. He was accepted at all he applied to Auburn, Mississippi State, Colorado State, and Texas Tech (didn’t quite meet everything but was in state). Visited but didn’t like Iowa State.

The key for vet school is to get good grades, low debt and it helps to enter vet school without being burnt out. Kansas State was perfect!


I love Kansas State! Only reason S23 couldn’t apply is that they don’t have one of his two majors. :frowning:
I’m so glad your son is thriving there. Who doesn’t love the Little Apple? Great town, great people, affordable and pretty.


First college tour was a safety school and my daughter fell hard. She got into several of her reaches which we visited after acceptances. Despite many people telling her to go for the prestigious name brand schools, she went with her heart and gut. She couldn’t be happier after her first semester.


I am literally watching my DS23 grow up before my own eyes over the last 2 years. He has not made a decision yet but he told me last evening that he would much rather go to a school that makes him feel special and gives him more opportunities than to a school where he will be just another student. He was very much against going OOS, but now he is open to it. He was oblivious to the financial impact of taking out loans, now he says absolutely no loans.
I think parents put on blinders and do not realize how hard it is to get into/go to a top school, especially if one is not a full pay and even so.


The best thing we can do is stop referring to them as “safety schools” and call them “right fits” or “sure bets” or “best targets.” The term “safety schools” has been coopted to denote that it was not a first choice and more upbeat terminology can go a long way in making the applicant feel like it is a good choice. I would also try to find current students attending those schools that the applicant can connect with, hear positive things about their experiences and get them excited about enrolling. The schools’ you tube channels often have loads of videos of current students or student panels talking about how much they enjoy their school. It’s also helpful to keep the list of colleges with later application dates handy:


Totally agree with this. My D23’s list was mostly “right fits” because she wanted to go to a small college and needed merit aid. She’ll be going to Juniata College, which has everything she was looking for – great environmental science program, rural area but in a small town, has a pep band, and the right distance from home.

She was above the 75th%ile for GPA/tests but still within reasonable range and I’m sure will have a good cohort of academic peers. And, having attended a super competitive, big high school, she had no desire to replicate that experience by going someplace super competitive. So she did not want to add a bunch of reaches anyway, even if budget wasn’t a factor.


This is a great approach. We also did not visit reaches until very late in the process. It really helps to be able to see the good things about a “right fit” school.

And, we put a lot of emphasis on demonstrated interest at those schools which is also helpful because those things that demonstrate interest are also how you learn more about them and can start to see yourself there.

I mentioned above my D23 will be going to Juniata and what really sold her was a long “Eagle for a Day” visit in the Fall. She got to sit in on class, meet with a professor in her major, tour the campus again, have lunch with a couple students in her major and doing one of the programs that interested her. By the end of the day, everything else was in 2nd place.


My daughter got into her safety school (University of Minnesota) and her almost-safety school (University of Wisconsin). She also got into a target school (Macalester.) Mac and Wisconsin are options she’s excited about. And now it’s much less scary as we wait for the other three very competitive places she applied, including one Ivy.


Congratulations to your daughter on Wisconsin! It has always been my daughter’s dream school, and on paper is a “safety”, and yet she was deferred. We are shocked. We are from Illinois so I know that is part of the reason for the deferment, but it still stings. So many were deferred this year there so I am trying to get her excited by her other options. It’s a struggle. She has been in the Wisconsin campus so many times since she was 5 getting her pic taken with Bucky at soccer camps and other events (I am an alum), it never crossed her mind that she wouldn’t get accepted.

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Once a school delivers an affordable admission (including to major if applicable), it becomes a safety.