The Death of the Fallback School

Barry Lenson

Are Safety Schools DyingIf you ever applied to college, you know what a safety school is.

It’s a school where you’re virtually assured of being accepted, because you’re over-qualified. Safety schools are known by other names too, like “fallback schools” or “slam dunks.”

The standard advice from college counselors has been that college applicants should always apply to at least two safety schools, just to have a safety net in place in case other possibilities don’t work out.

In our humble opinion, the concept of the safety school is about to die, for a few reasons.

One reason is that safety schools cost as much as the schools that students really want to attend.  That’s another way of saying, they cost a blinking fortune. When students are confronted with spending $25K, $50K or more to attend a college they really don’t like, they are going to think twice – especially after their parents start to yelp.

Another reason is that students are discovering strategies that can get them accepted into the colleges they really want to attend. They take online college courses to build up their credentials, then getting accepted into the schools that would have been a stretch for them otherwise. Or they are taking a year or two off from school to gain some real-world experience, then entering competitive business programs. This approach seems fair, doesn’t it? It gives a second chance to students who didn’t reach their full potential in high school.

So before you apply the standard advice and go to a school that won’t excite or challenge you, stop and think. There could be a way to get what you really want, the first time around.

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