Feeling anxious about college admissions? Add some peace of mind by researching the best safety schools to increase your likelihood of admission.
Building a balanced college list is critical, yet possibly one of the most stressful parts of the application process. That lingering question, “Will I actually get in?” can plague even the strongest applicants. To help put your mind at ease, be sure to include two good safety schools in your list.
While these schools may have higher acceptance rates and lower rankings compared to more competitive choices, they still provide quality education and opportunities. Having a backup option gives you that invaluable security net, with the high likelihood of an admission offer if plans with more aspirational colleges fall through. In this article, we’ll explore insider tips to help you find the best fallback schools you're qualified for.
A safety school is a college where an applicant's grades, test scores, and other credentials meet or exceed the average range of admitted students. Safety schools typically have high acceptance rates, meaning applicants have a strong likelihood of getting in.
When planning your college applications, it's wise to include safety schools where your admission chances are strong. Here are 20 reliable safety schools known for their academic excellence, vibrant campus life, and supportive environments.
The University of Vermont is an excellent safety school located in the charming college town of Burlington. With an acceptance rate of 71%, students with decent grades and test scores have a good chance of getting in. UVM has a respectable academic reputation.
The school has a classic New England campus set on the shores of Lake Champlain, providing ample opportunities for outdoor activities. UVM offers over 100 majors across a wide range of disciplines. Popular choices include business, biology, environmental studies, and psychology.
Small class sizes ensure students receive individualized attention from passionate professors. UVM graduates boast strong job placement rates and starting salaries.
With six campuses across metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona State University offers unparalleled academic opportunities. ASU has an acceptance rate of 88% and enrolls over 50,000 undergraduates. The school is well-regarded for innovation and provides a high-caliber education at an affordable price.
ASU features outstanding facilities, top-ranked programs, NCAA Division 1 sports, and an extensive alumni network. Students can choose from over 400-degree options while enjoying 300+ days of sunshine per year.
ASU also provides merit scholarships and grants to make college accessible. With vibrant campus life and career-focused programs, ASU is an exceptional safety school choice.
As Pennsylvania's land-grant university, Penn State provides an elite education at a public school price tag. With numerous campuses across PA, PSU features strong academics grounded in real-world application. The 55% acceptance rate makes it a realistic safety option for students with good grades and test scores.
Penn State is a massive university with over 40,000 undergrads and extensive research activity. Students can select from over 275 majors, join 800+ student clubs, cheer for Division 1 athletics, and make valuable connections via prominent alumni. State-of-the-art facilities, experiential learning opportunities, and reasonable in-state tuition rates cement Penn State’s reputation as an outstanding public university.
UMass Amherst is the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts system. Nestled in rural New England, UMass provides top-notch academics at an affordable cost for in-state students. With an acceptance rate of 64%, it serves as an achievable safety school for many applicants.
UMass Amherst boasts exceptional research facilities, accomplished faculty, and highly-ranked programs in business, computer science, engineering, and more. Undergraduates enjoy an abundance of clubs, concerts, festivals, and Division 1 athletic events on the lively campus. Surrounded by the Berkshire mountains, students take advantage of plentiful outdoor recreation as well. UMass Amherst offers big school opportunities with a small college community feel.
James Madison University has built a reputation as one of the top public universities in the Virginia state system. JMU manages to combine elite-level academics with a fun, spirited campus culture. With a 78% acceptance rate, it serves as a realistic safety option for many students.
Located in the Shenandoah Valley, JMU’s campus boasts beautiful scenery and top-notch facilities. The university provides strong undergraduate programs in business, health sciences, communications, psychology, and more. Students praise JMU's welcoming atmosphere, passionate professors, an abundance of clubs/activities, and Division 1 sports.
Reasonable in-state tuition rates and ample merit scholarships add to JMU’s appeal as well.
As a highly respected public research institution, the University of Delaware provides exceptional educational opportunities. UD features competitive admissions with a 72% acceptance rate, making it a strong safety consideration for students in the mid-Atlantic region.
The University of Delaware promotes undergraduate engagement via research projects, study abroad options, service learning, and more. Students select from over 150 major options while enjoying small class sizes. Located in Newark, Delaware, the campus provides close access to major cities like Philadelphia.
With a vibrant college town environment and successful alumni network, UD is an excellent match for students seeking the resources of a large university with the community feel of a small college.
Wofford College is a private liberal arts school located in Spartanburg, South Carolina. With just 1,650 undergraduates, Wofford provides personal mentoring relationships unmatched by larger universities. The college admits over half of applicants, making it a superb safety choice for students who value small class sizes.
All Wofford students complete an innovative general education program that emphasizes critical thinking and self-knowledge. Undergraduates can select from over 40 majors while enjoying Division 1 athletics and abundant study-abroad opportunities. Known for successful outcomes, almost 90% of Wofford graduates complete advanced or professional degrees.
The college also provides generous financial assistance - with scholarships and grants covering almost 70% of tuition costs.
The University of Denver is a prestigious private university located in Colorado's vibrant capital city. DU provides a personalized learning environment that prepares students for success through innovative majors, experiential learning, and abundant research opportunities.
With a 78% acceptance rate, the university serves as a realistic safety option for many applicants. The University of Denver campus promotes community and wellness through Division II athletics, performing arts centers, sustainability initiatives, and more.
DU undergraduates can select from over 125 majors, including standout programs in business, law, computer science, journalism, and hospitality. Students benefit from the school’s prime Denver location, robust alumni network with notable CEOs and public figures, and career outcomes boosted by practical experience.
Willamette University is a selective liberal arts college located in the Pacific Northwest. With an acceptance rate of 81%, Willamette serves as an exceptional safety choice for students drawn to small class sizes and undergraduate focus. The student-to-faculty ratio is just 12:1, enabling close mentoring relationships.
Willamette provides a rigorous general education grounded in critical analysis, civic engagement, and sustainability. Students then select from 37 majors, with standout options in sciences, humanities, and social sciences.
Undergraduates further benefit from merit scholarships covering over 90% of need, study abroad programs around the globe, NCAA Division III athletics, and a prime setting in Oregon’s capital city. With a dynamic learning community and successful outcomes, Willamette University represents an ideal safety school.
As a highly ranked public research institution, Michigan State University provides exceptional academic opportunities across over 400 majors. MSU maintains a reputation for innovation and real-world preparation at an affordable price for in-state students. The 88% acceptance rate also makes the university a great safety consideration.
The sprawling MSU campus encompasses quality facilities, Big 10 athletics, and abundant student activities. Undergraduates praise MSU's welcoming community, passionate faculty, study abroad programs, research initiatives, and service learning opportunities.
Top-ranked programs in science, agriculture, education, criminal justice, and more cement MSU's status as an elite public university. Graduates also benefit from the prominent MSU alumni network.
The University of Iowa offers world-class academics grounded in liberal arts exploration. As Iowa's flagship public university, students receive elite-caliber opportunities at an affordable in-state tuition rate. With an acceptance rate of 86%, Iowa represents an exceptional safety consideration as well.
Undergraduates at Iowa enjoy reasonable class sizes, passionate faculty, and prime research facilities across disciplines like healthcare, sciences, humanities, and engineering.
The UI campus provides quality performing arts venues, cultural festivals, Division 1 athletics, 500+ student groups, and abundant school spirit. Graduates gain access to the prominent Hawkeye alumni network which boosts career outcomes across industries. For an elite public education at a reasonable price, UI is hard to beat.
Westmont College is a selective, faith-based liberal arts school nestled in the foothills near Santa Barbara, California. Committed to the integration of faith and learning, Westmont provides a transformational education grounded in critical analysis and civic responsibility. The 82% acceptance rate also makes Westmont a realistic safety school for many applicants.
Westmont fosters intellectual exploration through small classes, undergraduate research projects, and study abroad programs around the world. Students praise the college’s intimate Christian community, passionate professors, and emphasis on leadership development.
Undergraduates can select from over 25 majors while enjoying NCAA Division III athletics and abundant performing arts opportunities as well. Known for successful outcomes, Westmont graduates attend top graduate/professional programs and secure meaningful work aligned with their vocation.
Located in the heart of Philadelphia, Temple University provides elite academics and research opportunities at an affordable public tuition rate. Temple features an urban campus environment ideal for students interested in music, media, healthcare, law, and social justice. With an 80% acceptance rate, the university serves as a realistic safety consideration as well.
Temple undergraduates select from over 300-degree options while enjoying Division 1 athletics, performing arts venues, cultural festivals, internships with top employers, and service initiatives throughout Philadelphia.
Noteworthy programs include business, education, engineering, pharmacy, and health sciences. Temple students graduate career-ready and prepared for leadership in their field of choice.
Mississippi State University provides exceptional educational quality at an affordable price as Mississippi's leading public research university. MSU maintains high admissions standards with a 70% acceptance rate, making it a great safety option at a reasonable cost.
MSU prioritizes student success through hands-on learning, undergraduate research, study abroad options, service initiatives, and more. Undergraduates choose from over 185 academic programs while enjoying Division 1 SEC athletics and abundant social activities. Highly ranked offerings in agriculture, engineering, architecture, business, and veterinary medicine cement MSU’s reputation for excellence.
Graduates also benefit from the prominent Bulldog alumni network throughout the region.
Middle Tennessee State University offers comprehensive academic opportunities in a vibrant college-town environment. As one of Tennessee's largest universities, MTSU provides elite facilities and faculty along with an ultra-affordable in-state tuition rate. The 73% acceptance rate also makes MTSU an exceptional safety school choice.
Undergraduates at MTSU select from 140+ majors while enjoying Division 1 athletics, 500+ student organizations, performing arts venues, internship options, and abundant school spirit.
Especially noteworthy programs include the recording industry, aerospace, concrete industry management, and more niche fields. Surrounded by Nashville's booming economy, MTSU graduates secure employment with top companies across industries.
The University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS has an 97% acceptance rate and over 18,000 undergraduates enrolled. It offers a vibrant campus life with over 300 student organizations to get involved in.
Ole Miss has a medical amnesty policy to encourage students to seek emergency assistance when needed without fear of disciplinary action. The school also has counseling services, health services, and emergency alert systems in place.
With low in-state tuition of $9,252 and average GPAs and test scores on the lower end for four-year universities, Ole Miss checks the boxes of affordability, accessibility, and safety that make it a great safety school option.
Missouri State University is located in Springfield, MO and has a very high 94% acceptance rate. Over 16,000 undergraduates are enrolled across a range of academic programs.
For $9,024 in annual in-state tuition, students gain access to the attractive, compact Missouri State campus with dedicated health/counseling services and a medical amnesty policy.
Required GPA, test scores, and other admissions criteria fall on the lower end, enhancing the school's accessibility. Missouri State offers an excellent combination of affordability, academic opportunity, vibrant student life, and campus safety.
The University of Nevada, Reno offers a compelling mix of academic opportunities and outdoor adventures that few institutions can match. Nestled in the scenic surroundings of Reno, NV, with proximity to Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountains, UNR appeals to students who value both academic rigor and an active, outdoor lifestyle.
Its strong programs in STEM, journalism, and liberal arts are complemented by a campus culture that emphasizes innovation and community engagement.
With an 86% acceptance rate and affordable in-state tuition, UNR makes quality education accessible, ensuring that students not only receive a robust academic experience but also have the chance to explore diverse interests and passions in a supportive environment.
Oklahoma State University, located in Stillwater, OK, is a vibrant public land-grant institution that prides itself on offering a rich educational experience rooted in engineering, business, and agriculture. With a 71% acceptance rate and a substantial undergraduate enrollment, OSU fosters a dynamic community atmosphere where students are encouraged to engage deeply with their studies and the wider community.
The university's emphasis on providing a supportive environment for both academic and personal growth ensures that students have the resources and community backing to explore their potential and prepare for future success.
OSU's commitment to excellence is evident in its wide range of programs and active campus life, making it an attractive option for students seeking a comprehensive university experience.
At the University of North Dakota, students are offered an education that expertly balances academic rigor with opportunities for research and innovation. Situated in Grand Forks, ND, UND is particularly renowned for its aviation, engineering, and health sciences programs, attracting students who are eager to lead and innovate in these fields.
With an acceptance rate of 84%, the university is accessible to a wide array of students, providing a nurturing environment that supports both personal and professional development. UND's commitment to research and innovation means students have ample opportunities to engage in groundbreaking work, preparing them for successful careers and meaningful contributions to their fields.
The supportive campus environment and comprehensive educational offerings make UND a standout choice for students aiming for a well-rounded and impactful college experience.
The best safety schools for a 3.7 GPA are colleges where your grades and test scores exceed the average for admitted students. With a 3.7 GPA, you will likely get accepted to schools like the University of Vermont, Arizona State University, and Pennsylvania State University.
When selecting a favorable safety school, choose colleges where your grades and test scores exceed or meet the average score ranges of admitted students. You should apply to at least two safety schools at minimum. A good safety school should:
If your numbers don’t quite match the performance of students admitted in the last few years, that college likely isn’t a good option for a safety school. However, with a sizeable advantage in other factors, such as an outstanding personal statement or being a recruited athlete, you can still have a good chance.
It’s important to keep in mind that one student’s safety school may not necessarily be the safety school for another. Every applicant's profile is different. Therefore, you need to compare your own performance with admission statistics to find the best safety schools for you.
You should aim to have two safety schools on your college list. Having two safety schools increases the likelihood of getting into at least one if you don't get into other schools.
With this in mind, it’s standard for students to apply to 10 to 12 colleges, with two or three of those as safety options. In other words, safety schools should take up about 20% of the total schools you plan to apply to.
If you’re still unsure, we’ve covered the most commonly asked questions about the characteristics of a good safety school.
Some good safety schools in NYC with high acceptance rates include:
When evaluating NYC safety schools, look at average GPAs and test scores of admitted students. If your grades and scores meet or exceed the averages, you have a good chance of admission.
When choosing a college that is likely to admit you, pick colleges where your grades, test scores, and qualifications meet or exceed the average scores for admitted students. The best safety schools should have high acceptance rates (50%+), average GPAs and test scores below your own, affordable tuition or generous financial aid, your intended major, and opportunities to get involved.
The University of California, Riverside is considered one of the best safety schools in California. It has a high acceptance rate of over 50%, with average GPAs and test scores that many students can meet or exceed.
For students with the strong academic profiles needed to apply to Ivy League schools, safe bets for admission include top public universities and selective private colleges where admit rates are higher. While not guaranteed, an Ivy-caliber applicant's high test scores and grades should make them competitive at these schools. Here are some good safety schools for Ivy League applicants:
These schools might be notably more competitive than other schools previously mentioned. But if your application is strong enough to have a chance for Ivy League schools, these schools can certainly be considered safety schools for you!
No, safety schools do not necessarily offer a worse education compared to more selective colleges. While less selective schools may have some differences in resources, rankings, or other metrics, safety schools can still provide quality academics and opportunities.
Choosing secure options for college admission is an important part of the application process. While admission may be more likely at safety schools due to higher acceptance rates, students should still put maximum effort into these applications.
Safe bets for admission allow you to diversify your college options while increasing your chances of admission somewhere you'd be content attending. Though they may not be your first choice, safety schools can provide quality education and opportunities that align with your goals. So don't underestimate their value when mapping your journey to higher education!