Finding the right “safeties”

Although often overlooked, your selection of safety schools can determine where you end up for the next four years. We recommend you divide your selection of schools into 5 categories: Moonshots, reaches, targets, safeties and ultra safeties. We like to separate safeties into two respective categories so our clients can be both safe and organized. We recommend you apply to at most 2 ultra safeties, and 2-3 safeties. Remember to be cautious about what you consider to be a safety and ultra safety. Many of our peers were overconfident when picking safeties, and others were under confident. Coincidentally, both wound up going to a school ranked below where they could have gone, as the overconfident peer applies to safeties that should have been targets or reaches (perhaps forcing them to attend an ultra safety), and the underconfident peer applies to safeties that should have been ultra safeties. There is no blanket systematic policy that we would want to instill on any of our readers when deciding which schools are safeties and ultra safeties. Fortunately, we work with our clients on a personal level to make sure that his/her safeties and ultra safeties are correctly classified. However, there are some policies that we would like to be made clear to all of our clients, whether you’re the next Einstein or are just getting by with straight Cs. We want to make sure that no safety should have an acceptance rate lower than 30%. It is important to add that if you are applying to a specific school within a university, like a business or engineering school, that you make sure that the acceptance rate to that specific school also has a higher acceptance rate than 30%.

Now, for the fun stuff... When browsing safety and ultra safety schools, look for universities that genuinely excite you. When asking someone why they applied to Harvard, you may get a response along the lines of,

“because it’s the best college in the world.” We’re not advising to be oblivious to college rankings, in fact, we encourage this. Usually colleges are ranked higher for a reason, and may lead to a higher position or income in the future. But, when choosing a safety, since the rank of the school will be less than your targets and reaches, make sure you choose universities that you personally will get the most out of. I had a friend who applied early to Stanford, but his safeties were George Washington, NYU, and Boston University. When talking to him about his college experience, he said he chose Stanford because of its highly ranked status, but chose those colleges for safeties because he thought he would get the most out of opportunity rich cities. He didn’t actually like being away from a city and settling in the suburban setting of Stanford, but he applied early because it was Stanford.We encourage our clients to think similar to my friend: choose safeties that genuinely excite you - look at the college’s setting, size, climate, classes, and culture, keeping in mind what you would want out of your experience.

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