How to Build a College List (Part 1: the Safety School)

Andy Wang
Andy Wang

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When building college lists, applicants should always make sure to include a category for safety school. Further, as students are writing essays, be sure to leave reasonable time for this category (alongside top choices). Applicants may even come to realize that some programs at their safety school are even more relevant to them than other competitors.

Expect that personal pride may get in the way, and applicants may consider themselves “too good” for a particular school. Yet such a mentality has come back to haunt overconfident applicants. Safety schools are what what round out the college essay process and can alleviate potential uncertainty; it’s essentially the final step for any intelligent applicant when building their college list.

Feeling doubt creeping in?

Almost every applicant hates how long the college essay takes for each of his or her schools. While 300-750 words doesn’t seem like much to write, the pressure of the situation often lead applicants to second guess themselves. This is why safety schools are so important to any applicant who actually has a good grasp of their admission chances. Regardless of how qualified an applicant may think he or she is, there will always be a chance of getting denied. Because of this, it’s a smart decision to have a few safety schools in case of something disastrous happens to give peace of mind to an applicant when applying. In addition, more times than not you will find the college essay for these schools are just repeats of ones you already wrote. Or in case of public systems like the UC’s, you literally just have to click another button.

How to find your special safeties

So, what should you be looking at what safety schools to add to one’s college lists? First, an applicant should make sure that, above all, it’s a program he or she cares about. If the applicant is actually “overqualified” for the school, then focus on finding an academic program that is of actual interest. This way, students do not need to draft every college essay supplement from scratch for every school; instead, previous writing can be the foundation of future supplements.

A word of caution

However, the golden maxim of applying to safety schools is this. Take them seriously. Every school will have its own unique opportunities for its students. While some colleges may have more opportunity than others, the ones those schools do have are not be overlooked. In addition, rankings aren’t everything, and the number does not directly correlate to how successful a student’s college and  career will be.

Conclusion: the safety school

College lists are a daunting tasks, but adding in safety schools is a straightforward step you can do now. As you can see, putting in the effort on your essays is a great way to ease those application butterflies. By doing research, applicants not only get a broader landscape of the programs they’re interested in; but also they may actually be interested in the program that opens another university that they would want to attend. College admissions chances are never concrete. It’s essential for students to make sure they have a “safety net” of schools that they would genuinely enjoy.

Questions? Let us know!