Linda Abraham

Should You Apply to a Safety School?

You’re applying to a bunch of highly-ranked programs? You may not get in. Should you also apply to a few schools that you know you’ll get into?

Safety School 101 – The Basics

A safety school is:

• A school for which you are highly qualified and competitive and where you will most likely be accepted if you present your case well.

• A school that supports your goals and that will provide you with a degree that will help you grow in your career.

• A school that is not as competitive as higher ranked programs and that generally lacks the overall brand value that some of the more competitive programs offer (and that’s okay – having that “star” name isn’t as important as bring a good fit for you and providing a quality education!).

• A school that you should still take seriously despite its name! There’s no such thing as an automatic acceptance – slacking off and submitting an incomplete or sloppy application will get you dinged, no matter how “easy” the school is to get into.

Are You a Good Fit?

Remember, it’s not just about getting in to any school; it’s about getting in to a school that supports your goals and that will help you propel your career forward. So how do you know if you’re a good fit with the safety schools on your list?
You need to make sure your goals match up with the ideals and the professional and educational offerings of your target program. Let’s take a closer look.

Professional Goals: How Do They Match Up?

Ask yourself the following questions:

• What are your post-degree career goals?

• Are graduates from this target school hired in high numbers for the position you are interested in?

• How does on-campus job recruitment work? Do the companies that you would like to work for recruit on campus?

• Is the alumni network strong in your field of interest?

Speak to alumni, as well as career counselors, at your target institution. Pick their brains about what you can expect on campus and beyond, post-degree, with your particular career goals.

Educational Goals: Are You a Match?

To determine your fit with a program on an educational level, ponder the following:

• What is the teaching method used at the school? Is it a school-wide practice? Or does it vary according to instructor?

• Does the structure of the curriculum appeal to you? Does it cover all the “bases” that you feel are most important?

• Will the school do a good job of teaching you what you need to achieve your professional goals?

• Are professors at the school prominent in your area of interest? How accessible are they to students? Do they teach their own classes?

You should be able to find most of this information on the school’s website, but making contact with current students, alumni, and professors and asking them questions that are important to you, will help you add a deeper layer to your understanding of your unique fit with the school’s educational goals.

Brand Name or Bust?

While it’s certainly not the best way to choose a program, some applicants do have a “brand name or bust” attitude. If this is you, and you know that if you don’t get into Harvard or Yale, then you won’t bother attending school at all, then at least you can pat yourself on the back for knowing yourself well and save some money by crossing schools that you’d never attend anyways off your list. However, do your research and understand that brand is not everything, and that there may be programs lower down on the ranking list that are exceptional schools, and more importantly, exceptional for you.

What Should You Do?

If you conclude that no there are no schools at which you are highly competitive and at which you’d have your educational and professional goals met, then you shouldn’t bother applying to any safety schools. This is fine – just know that your chances of getting in will be lower and that you may need to reapply next year. But if none of the less competitive schools are right for you, then this is the right move.

Most likely, however, you will find a few programs at which you are very competitive and that do support your goals. Apply to these schools and feel confident that you’re investing in a solid insurance policy. And consider this: the more competitive you are at a school, the more impressive you look and the more likely you are to be awarded large financial aid packages. Money isn’t everything, of course, but it’s not a bad consolation prize if you get rejected from the other schools on your list!

Get Your Game On

Whether or not to apply to a safety school, like so much in admissions, is an “it depends” issue. It depends on who you are and what you’re looking for. There are no hard and fast rules, but one thing is certain: the earlier you start, the less rushed, less stressed, and better prepared you’ll be to present a killer application – to any school, safety or not. This free admissions guide will help you jumpstart the application process – download your copy of Get Your Game On now!

About Linda Abraham:

Catherine Blogger has guided thousands of applicants to acceptances at top universities since 1994 – they know what works and what doesn’t, so follow Linda Abraham on Google+ and contact Accepted to get started or visit for all your admissions consulting needs today!




  • Linda Abraham

    Linda Abraham is the founder and CEO of Accepted, the top-tier admissions consultancy that helps you unlock your competitive advantage. Linda has written or co-authored 13 ebooks on the college admissions process. In 2007, she co-founded the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) and became its first president. For the last 20 years Linda and her highly credentialed, experienced team have helped thousands of applicants get accepted to top colleges and graduate schools worldwide, including but not limited to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, Kellogg, and MIT. She has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, The New York Times, US News, The Sunday Times of London, Businessweek, Poets & Quants and MBA Podcaster.