No Safeties....are we ok or not?

Two pieces of wisdom that I have gotten in the past several years of college apps with multiple kids are 1. Build a college list from the bottom up, and 2. Learn to love your likely.

As others have said, their lists may not spell disaster, but may well create a tense and angst-ridden senior year waiting for an acceptance.

The key is not only having schools on the list where your kids will most likely get admitted, but will also be happy to attend…bonus points if the schools issue an answer early so that your kids can relax.

Sometimes it takes an attitude change to get to that point. Motivated and successful kids are programmed to believe that they need to and are entitled to attend the most selective school where they get admitted. Taking some time, researching, and especially touring likely/safety schools helps families to realize that almost all schools can offer incredible opportunities, resources, and overal experiences.

Your kids may both get into an ED school and you will be in the lucky position of thinking we are all naysayers. But I could also envision a situation with these lists where they are deferred/rejected from their ED school, deferred in EA from somewhere like Michigan that postpones most OOS decisions, especially coming from an over represented state like California, and then they are left in limbo and anxious until the end of senior year.

For practical reasons and for your own peace of mind, I would look to add some true likely schools to both lists…and get them excited about those opportunities.


After reading this post, OP might also want to consider this pernicious thing called “yield”.

Check very carefully if the schools D&S are applying to are conscious of their yield. Make sure that the schools that they are considering safeties don’t backfire because they are hyper-conscious about yield. In other words, they assume your kids won’t go there because they assume they will go somewhere else that’s “better” given their respective stats.


Personally - I think Wisconsin is an in for your daughter (not a hard admit) and Trinity a likely for your son. You only need one admit. Your kids scores are great, the ECs are likely ok (don’t mention NHS - unless they are doing something - i.e. the club itself doesn’t matter but if they are making an impact it does).

A 34 ACT is awesome - 99th percentile. Unfortunately, for the very top schools, many are advised to apply TO with that score - it’s a mindboggling statement - but it’s true.

For Wesleyan, as an example, it’s at the 50th percentile. However, what they forget to tell you is 41% of admits had no test considered - so in many ways those scores are inflated. That’s pretty much anywhere except the Florida publics, Georgetown, and I’m probably missing some. I know you’re shooting for a 35 - I hope you get - but even a 34 is top notch and likely will make little difference to 35. I think they have the test box checked (personally) - except maybe for a school like Vandy.

The issue with their scores, test scores, and ECs is - for the top schools - and that’s top 35 or 40 - they don’t stand out. So someone is getting in - it may be them - or it may not be. One just can’t tell. In the last week I read about 4.5s with 1500+ SATs getting rejected at UMD (top 60) and Florida (top 30). So I think that’s where everyone’s caution is coming.

Here’s a list of the top film schools - I’m sure you’ve seen this and many others. Obviously there’s many aspects to film and many rankings. Many/most are in CA - no surprise. But several you mentioned or were mentioned here by others make the list (link below) - I left off #6 Emerson.


UW Madison didn’t make the list. But UW MIlwaukee did.

You might do a deep dive into those above for the second major and see if they might be matches. FSU is up and coming with a great film program…it’s also inexpensive and would be a target - but if accepted, would likely get an OOS waiver.

Most colleges can and do go deep into social science research. For a student who really wants to be quantitative, they will most likely tailor a program for you or already offer it via elective classes - they just might not have the major “name” like you seek.

I focused on your daughter because honestly, for Econ - and yes, your son may have different focuses within econ, but that’s a standard offering and can go anywhere. I think he’s in at two at least but I’d still put one school underneath - and there’s many school that might make his cut amongst LACs and mid size schools that are a tad below what you list…really that’s the thing - so like a Kalamazoo, Rhodes, or Denver - those would be safeties that meet his criteria (I think).

Good luck.

TheWrap’s Top 50 Film Schools of 2021


Yes they need safeties.

I’m confused about the financials though- you can afford full freight- terrific- but are concerned about value- also terrific. But what happens if you determine that the college a kid gets into doesn’t in fact meet the cost/value ratio? (It happens. We visited several with our kids where prior to the visit we were all gung-ho but after the visit the parents were “Ain’t paying for that!”

Which is why a mutually agreed to safety is a good thing. All the participants can agree that it’s an acceptable option even if not the top choice. So you get that nailed down.

BTW- all my kids found Dartmouth “too rural” so check on that… I realize one person’s suburban subdivision is another person’s farmland… but Dartmouth is a beautiful campus and decidedly not urban!

And not to beat a dead horse- since both USC and Chapman are in CA… neither of them work just for the sake of their screenwriting programs? And agree Fordham deserves a look… punches well above its weight in the creative/media industries…


I dont see UW Madison as a safety for oos.


As noted, both of your students have a chance of admission to some school on their list, but in my opinion…no guaranteed admissions that are affordable and that’s what a safety school really is. OOS publics cannot be considered safety schools. Remember, their first mission is to provide spots to their well qualified instate residents.

How many matches/likely equal a safety>>

you could apply to 1000 match schools and none of them might be a safety school.

Please read this lengthy thread….read all of it. It includes the OPs original thread and many many responses as well. Bottom line…the first time this very well qualified student applied to colleges, he really had no true safety schools. He had no acceptances. He did a great gap year and really landed on his feet very nicely…but not until after a lot of heartache and a really lousy end to his senior year of high school. This was a national merit finalist with excellent grades and standardized test scores. And admissions have become MORE competitive since the 2005 admissions year.

This thread is old…but it should be required reading for every high achieving student who applies to a top heavy list of colleges. No one in this kid’s family or it expected him not to get accepted anywhere. He was that excellent an applicant. But he was competing for admissions with many many other well qualified applicants.


FSU film school is not a safety. Acceptance rate probably less than 5%. 20 slots only. After looking at some of the conversations this year FSU is no longer a safety for anyone. She could do film studies or something similar.


For your D Emory would be good. Great academics but film is big in Atlanta. The nice thing about film is you just need to be around creative types. You don’t need to major in film. It’s easy to work on films if you show some interest.

Not to add another reach for your D but Carnegie Mellon has world class BFA programs. Look at the list of writers from CMU.

Many good suggestions so far. For your D, many film schools are tough admits. Is your D looking at a BFA program, where a portfolio is often required for admission, or film producction? If so, those majors are a complicating factor.

It can be difficult to categorize film schools because many are much more selective than the institution overall. I agree that FSU film school is a reach, DePaul BFA in film and television is not a safety, could be a reach, maybe a high match. I don’t think anyone has mentioned U Miami for film and/or screenwriting, but another high match/low reach but not a BFA, so could be a good choice.

Thank you everyone for the suggestions!

I will have D22 look at DePaul (we’re visiting Chicago next month anyway), Fordham (visiting NYC in summer) and I’ll try again on Iowa. She will probably also apply to IUB Media.

I will have S22 look at UIB Kelly, UVT, UGA and maybe some LACs. He mentioned Whitman today (he’s a 8x legacy including major donors). I’d forgotten about Whitman b/c it’s so rural. I can’t see him there personally but he’s changing his mind about priorities weekly right now.)

RE: finances. I am interested in safeties that are either state schools (even OOS at most is much less than private), or private schools with very likely merit offers. The schools already on their lists we would be fine full pay, though obviously merit is nice. My older D was accepted to 4 of 6 schools and they all offered her merit. She took the smallest merit at the highest ranked school and is doing fantastic there. It is worth it to us and her. Their school money is actually theirs, not ours, so the financial decisions are their’s to make and we will advise. Two want to attend grad school for sure, so that is also a factor, as the resources are generous but still finite. They realize they are exceedingly fortunate to not have to make decisions based entirely on cost.

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I agree … admissions has changed dramatically the last 2 years. And with UW’s reciprocity with Minnesota residents, I would describe Wisconsin for the poster’s daughter as very likely, but not a safety. The admissions rate at UW OOS is about 50% and it may end up being a little lower this year.

I would have at least 1 school with a 70% or greater acceptance rate on both kids’ lists. Maybe the poster’s son’s list already has that, I don’t know enough about some of these schools like Holy Cross or Trinity to know that. But there is definitely not a safety on the poster’s daughter’s list.

I wonder if the U Wisconsin out of state admissions rate of about 50-53% includes Minnesota applicants who are treated as in state for UW admission decisions. Is it possible that they are included in the 50-53% OOS admissions rate? Meaning if you are OOS but not from Minnesota, the admissions rate would be less than 50-53% after deducting the Minnesota applicants who are accepted at a much higher rate like Wisconsin residents.


She would be considering the BA in Film/TV not the BFA. Looks like it’s just standard admissions process through the University.


Nevertheless, for matriculated students, a 34 ACT represents the class median.

From the Wesleyan website:


This is two years ago (as you noted) - but I think a student of this caliber gets into UW - but perhaps I’m wrong.

  • The university admitted 73 percent of Wisconsin applicants this year, up from 68 percent last year. The admittance rate for nonresident applicants this year was 53.8 percent.

It also sounds like from some of the expertise on the site that film school may be much more restrictive than the regular school - so FSU already a match (not safety) - sounds like a reach.

Perhaps OP has to check out class sizes, admission stats, ECs (maybe they’re focused on the major) - but at least has good ideas now.

Then the fact that Wisconsin wasn’t but Wisconsin Milwaukee was listed in the top 50 film schools - maybe (or maybe not) Wisconsin comes off the list.

Perhaps they consider it “almost” California - but cost/value/top level film school - U of Az is everything - and then some…and less than $20K a year all in to boot! with a 4.0!! But no clue if the film school is restrictive like FSU. I do know the Honors dorm and adjacent gym /counseling center - are awesome!!

Yes, similar high stats kid here. Nationally known magnet, NMSF, national award, State orch, Varsity capt, club pres, 5s on APs, pro actor w/ union status. Flat out denied at SCEA. (Did not expect a yes, but thought at least deferred w/ these stats).

In at state school and expecting to be in at 2 safeties (both recommended DD for selective scholarships, so would be shocked if not). One top 10 LAC, supposedly a “hard target” (reach in this market – everything seems to be a reach in this market!) looks promising, but that is from a connection w/ a prof that was made and a strong talent supplement. All this to say, it’s a wild wild world this year. Most colleges had apps increase from last year which had huge increases from previous year. SO, agreeing w/ many previous parents, @Techno13, find a few safeties. Trinity, Holy Cross and U Wash are promising, but you will likely want more depth and breadth. FWIW, mine warmed up to two safeties – by visiting campus and having a great chat w/ faculty (mid tier LAC) and by getting into Honors college at state flagship. Gotta focus on the good.

@InquiringMom2, hope the best for yours!


May be matriculated too - but it was also “admitted”… …nonetheless not relevant other than to say - they’re right there (and that’s without 41% not submitting).

## Profile of Students Offered Admission for Fall 2021

ACT and SAT scores

Admit 75th percentile: 35 770 790
Admit Median: 34 750 770
Admit 25th percentile: 33 720 740
59% of admits asked to have test scores considered in the admission process

A high stats student should have a very wide range of safeties to choose from.

The real problem seems to be that high stats students on these forums often think that any college that could be a safety is somehow beneath them or a waste of their high school efforts and achievements.


I agree with Syracuse for your daughter.


DePaul has a BA and BFA. The BA is less intensive. Both of my sons liked DePaul and love Chicago. Both applied with excellent merit. One for film the other for business. Neither ended up there but like the school.

Syracuse could be a match.

I’ll throw out Pitt too. They just started a film program recently. Pittsburgh has been a good location for the film industry.


Pitt is a good suggestion as they still have rolling admission so if you apply when the common app opens you can have an early decision.