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25 Safety Schools to Consider for Your College List

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Safety schools should not be overlooked when you build your college list. It’s important to have these options on the off-chance that you do not get accepted to your target or reach schools. In this post, we explain what you should look for in a safety school and provide a list of good safety schools you can consider when building your college list.


What Are Safety Schools?


Along with target and reach schools, safety schools are an integral part of your college list. Safety schools are schools where you have an 80% chance or more of acceptance based on your admissions profile. 


That said, the qualifications for a ‘safety school’ depend on the student. Based on test scores, grades, activities, and demographics, one person’s safety school may be another person’s target or reach school.


It’s important to remember that highly selective schools—those with admissions rates of less than 20%—aren’t safeties for anyone.


Also, keep in mind that some less-selective, but still competitive, schools practice yield protection. Yield is the percentage of accepted students who actually enroll at a school. Many schools believe yield is a measure of their desirability, and therefore want to maximize their yield percentages. This is achieved by rejecting or waitlisting exceptional candidates who they think will ultimately enroll in more prestigious schools. Because of this, competitive schools that are not in the Ivy League or top 20 schools should also not be considered safeties for anyone.


How Many Safeties Should You Have?


You should aim to apply to 8-12 schools total, and at least 2-3 of those should be safeties. A balanced school list is one that’s made up of 2-3 safety schools, 4-5 target schools, and 2-3 reach schools. While you should have an 80%+ chance of acceptance at a safety school, at a target or reach school, you should have a 25-79% or <25% chance of acceptance, respectively.


Having a balanced school list with enough safety and target schools is especially important with test-optional applications and lowered acceptance rates at elite schools. Students who only apply to reach schools may end up having no options at all, unfortunately. 


Learn more about safeties, targets, and reaches and how to find the right schools for you.


How to Find Good Safety Schools


1. Look at your state schools.


Many state schools prefer in-state applicants and have high admissions rates, making them a great place to start when looking for safety schools. Some state schools even guarantee admission to in-state residents. 


For example, if you attend Texas public schools you get guaranteed admission to public Texas universities if you meet certain class rank and/or testing requirements. Some of these universities are more competitive than others since each school has its own specific requirements for guaranteed admission.


UC schools also offer their own version of guaranteed admission called local guarantee (ELC). If you attend a participating public high school, are in the top 9% of your class, and take the required classes in 10th and 11th grade, you can qualify for guaranteed admission to a UC school.


Some state schools, however, can actually be pretty selective, such as the University of Michigan. If that’s the case, look for less-selective colleges, like MSU, or regional universities or community colleges.


2. Consider small, private colleges that offer significant merit aid.


Many small, private schools have high acceptance rates and attract strong applicants with generous scholarships. Unlike larger state schools, these schools often offer smaller class sizes and more contact with professors and faculty, which may appeal to you. 


While some small, private schools have steep tuition rates, schools like Clarke University, Illinois College, and Florida Southern College offer significant merit aid, making them great options for safety schools. 


Since merit aid isn’t need-based, it can help cover costs for students who don’t qualify for federal financial aid. If you have a strong academic profile, with high standardized test scores, GPA, and class rank, you will likely be eligible for some form of merit aid depending on the school.


3. Search for schools on CollegeVine and see your chances of acceptance.


It can be difficult to figure out what schools you can include as safeties on your college list, but don’t worry, CollegeVine can help! This is why we created our free chancing engine and school search tool. You’ll see your real chances of admission based on your academic profile, test scores, extracurriculars, and more. Our chancing engine still works if you’re applying to test-optional schools, and will tell you whether or not to submit your score. We can also help you discover schools based on your preferences, from intended major to admissions difficulty to diversity.


25 Safety Schools with High Acceptance Rates


While the label of ‘safety schools’ depends on the person, we wanted to share some examples of schools that may be safeties for strong applicants. We also tried to find relatively affordable schools, even for out-of-state students.


1. CSU Fullerton


Location: Fullerton, California
Undergrad Enrollment: 35,600
Acceptance Rate: 59%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 930-1190/18-26.5
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $23,679/$35,559


CSU Fullerton is a large state school. In fact, it is the largest out of all of the CSU schools. The university is federally designated as a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI) and an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander-serving institution (AANAPISI). The large school competes in Division I athletics. One unique aspect of the university is its architecture, as most campus buildings were constructed with a post-modern futuristic flare. 


Learn more about CSU Fullerton and what it takes to get accepted.


2. Cal Poly Pomona


Location: Pomona, California
Undergrad Enrollment: 26,900
Acceptance Rate: 61%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: N/A
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $24,009/$35,889


Cal Poly Pomona is known for providing students with a unique learning experience due to its polytechnic approach, with polytechnic meaning “skilled in many arts.” Students at Cal Poly institutions are taught through experiential learning, discovery, and innovation. With that, Cal Poly Pomona creates many noteworthy programs. For example, 1 of every 14 engineers in the state of California graduates from Cal Poly Pomona. The school is nationally ranked for helping students achieve economic success immediately after graduation.


Learn more about Cal Poly Pomona and what it takes to get accepted.


3. Truman State University


Location: Kirksville, Missouri
Undergrad Enrollment: 3,800
Acceptance Rate: 61%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: N/A
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $18,002/$25,723


Truman State University is a public university with a liberal arts feel. They emphasize a rigorous liberal arts and science curriculum and a close-knit and accepting campus culture. Professors at Truman are known for challenging their students. Many students are drawn to Truman due to its smaller student body and the closeness that can be achieved with professors and other students. Truman students also have the opportunity to participate in Division II sports. 


Learn more about Truman and what it takes to get accepted.


4. Florida International University


Location: Miami, Florida
Undergrad Enrollment: 46,400
Acceptance Rate: 64%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1030-1220/21-27
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $17,641/$30,039 


Florida International University is a very large school—one of the ten largest in the nation. FIU is ranked in the nation’s top 50 public research universities and ranked second for international business by U.S. News and World Report. No matter your field of study, research is an important part of the school’s programs. One thing that draws students to FIU is its location in Miami. Miami is a vibrant city, teeming with life and opportunities for young people.


Learn more about FIU and what it takes to get accepted.


5. Louisiana Tech University


Location: Ruston, Louisiana
Undergrad Enrollment: 10,000
Acceptance Rate: 66%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 930-1190/18-26.5
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $19,275/$26,016


Louisiana Tech opened as a rural industrial college in 1894 during the second industrial revolution. The school has stayed true to those roots over the years, emphasizing both technical skills and polytechnic approaches over the years. Students at Louisiana Tech can participate in Greek life, Division I athletics, and numerous other clubs and activities. Louisiana Tech is different from many schools on this list as the school’s university calendar operates on the quarter system.


Learn more about Louisiana Tech and what it takes to get accepted.


6. SUNY Plattsburgh


Location: Plattsburgh, New York
Undergrad Enrollment: 4,300
Acceptance Rate: 68%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: N/A
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $23,651/$33,561


Situated on the shore of a lake in the Champlain Valley, students at SUNY Plattsburgh wake up every day satisfied with their university’s connection to nature. Additionally, they are amazed by the academic opportunities afforded to them. With more than 70 academic programs spanning humanities, sciences, and education, opportunities are abundant. SUNY Plattsburgh even boasts some hard-to-find degrees like expeditionary studies and robotics.


Learn more about SUNY Plattsburgh and what it takes to get accepted.


7. SUNY Oneonta


Location: Oneonta, New York
Undergrad Enrollment: 5,300
Acceptance Rate: 70%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 978-1169/19-27
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $23,366/$33,276


SUNY Oneonta offers an intimate setting for learning, with small classes, opportunities for undergraduate research, and a low student-to-faculty ratio. As students enter their senior year, over 75% have been involved in at least two “high-impact learning experiences”—things like studying abroad, doing research, doing a service-learning project, or completing an internship. The school identifies “caring” as its longest-standing tradition, as they emphasize philanthropy, inclusivity, service, and sustainability.


Learn more about SUNY Oneonta and what it takes to get accepted.


8. Louisiana State University


Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Undergrad Enrollment: 29,200
Acceptance Rate: 71%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1130-1300/23-29
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $25,112/$41,789


LSU is one of the large state schools on this list, which fosters a unique environment for students. The school is very invested in sports, school spirit, and traditions. That said, they coin their students “champions on the field, and in every field” and do not shy away when it comes to academics. LSU emphasizes that their students, in all fields, examine and attempt to find solutions for the pressing issues in the world. Some important benefits that come with attending a large state school like LSU include a large alumni base and access to state-of-the-art technology and resources.


Learn more about LSU and what it takes to get accepted.


9. SUNY Geneseo


Location: Geneseo, New York
Undergrad Enrollment: 4,400
Acceptance Rate: 74%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1170-1310/25-30.5
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $23,207/$33,117 


SUNY Geneseo is known as the prettiest SUNY campus, which means a lot because most of the SUNY campuses are considered outstandingly beautiful. The university is known for its exceptional professors, welcoming atmosphere, and successful alumni. It is additionally known for its abundant study abroad programs, which makes it unsurprising that over 40% of students study abroad. Attending ice hockey games and watching the famously striking sunsets over the university are popular activities for students. 


Learn more about SUNY Geneseo and what it takes to get accepted.


10. University of Wisconsin–La Crosse


Location: La Crosse, Wisconsin
Undergrad Enrollment: 9,400
Acceptance Rate: 74%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT:
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $15,965/$24,784


UWL is a public university in Wisconsin, known for unique programs like recreation management, therapeutic recreation, nuclear medicine technology, archaeology, and anthropology. It is the only undergraduate archaeology/anthropology program in the Midwest and one of just a few nationally. While Greek life plays a very small role at UWL (under 1% of students), the school has a myriad of Division III sports teams and other recreational clubs that bring students together. Statistics show that students enjoy their time at UWL, with the school boasting an 84% retention rate and a 73% graduation rate, well above the national average. 


Learn more about the UWL and what it takes to get accepted.


11. SUNY Purchase


Location: Purchase, New York
Undergrad Enrollment: 3,400
Acceptance Rate: 75%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1190-1350/28.5-31
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $23,501/$33,441


SUNY Purchase is one of the more unique schools on this list, due to its emphasis on arts. They have a rigorous liberal arts and sciences program that is supplemented with world-class conservatory programs in the visual and performing arts. They are thought of as SUNY’s “dreamers, DIYers, and forward-thinkers.” A specific type of student enjoys a school like SUNY Purchase, but if you are an arts-oriented, open-minded, liberal thinker, it might be a great safety school for you. 


Learn more about SUNY Purchase and what it takes to get accepted.


12. SUNY Brockport


Location: Brockport, New York
Undergrad Enrollment: 5,700
Acceptance Rate: 76%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1060-1220/23-28
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $23,291, 33,201


Students at SUNY Brockport enjoy a small college-town environment, with access to the city resources of Rochester—just 16 miles away. The school has outstanding programs for nursing, sports management, exercise science, and other sports-related majors. It also has 23 Division III athletic teams that students can be involved with. Students at the school foster a small but supportive community, with strong well-being ratings. 


Learn more about SUNY Brockport and what it takes to get accepted.


13. University of Minnesota Morris


Location: Morris, Minnesota
Undergrad Enrollment: 1,200
Acceptance Rate: 76%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: N/A
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $22,912/$25,004


The University of Minnesota–Morris is a student-centered university that emphasizes student access to professors, technology, and resources. The most popular major at the University of Minnesota–Morris is biology, and they advertise the fact that faculty, not TAs, teach all classes and labs. Students at the University of Minnesota–Morris describe themselves as quirky and dedicated. Students can participate in and attend games for Division III athletics. 


Learn more about the University of Minnesota Morris and what it takes to get accepted.


14. Central Michigan University


Location: Mount Pleasant, Michigan
Undergrad Enrollment: 11,400
Acceptance Rate: 77%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1010-1223/19.75-26
Total Cost: $24,120


Central Michigan University is known for being one of the largest public institutions in Michigan. Students at CMU can earn Bachelor’s degrees in over 200 fields. Additionally, CMU boasts unique coursework that emphasizes a holistic approach to learning. This means that students blend disciplines, engage in experiential learning, and approach issues through unique lenses. Unlike many schools on this list, CMU participates in Division I athletics, with 16 men’s and women’s teams in the Mid-American Conference.


Learn more about CMU and what it takes to get accepted.


15. University of North Florida


Location: Jacksonville, Florida
Undergrad Enrollment: 14,100
Acceptance Rate: 77%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1000-1210/19-26
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $16,345/$30,749


The University of North Florida works hard to provide students with an individualized experience. This looks like researching with faculty, community-based learning, and studying abroad, which UNF students do at twice the average rate. UNF is also a Division I athletic school, with 19 athletic teams. Students enjoy the location of UNF’s campus, situated directly between the Jacksonville beaches and downtown Jacksonville, with access to anything they could desire. 


Learn more about the University of North Florida and what it takes to get accepted.


16. University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire


Location: Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Undergrad Enrollment: 9,800
Acceptance Rate: 77%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1120-1300/21-27
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $17,446/$25,721


The University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire is a mid-size institution. Popular majors include business, nursing, and marketing. The school offers notable programs like a prestigious University Honors Program that students are invited to join based on their application statistics. The school is also a part of the National Student Exchange (NSE)—a program that allows students to attend a semester or two at a different institution while paying UWEC tuition. One fun part of the UWEC student experience is exposure to music. The Blugold Marching Band (BGB) is one of the largest marching bands in the country. Additionally, the school has one of the most well-regarded jazz bands in the country, and with that, an important historical collection of jazz music.


Learn more about UWEC and what it takes to get accepted.


17. Winona State University


Location: Winona, Minnesota
Undergrad Enrollment: 5,700
Acceptance Rate: 77%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 970-1380/19-25
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $19,454/$25,954


Winona State University is the first tax-supported school West of the Mississippi and the oldest Minnesota state school. Between the school’s two campuses in Winona and Rochester, students are offered over 200 degree programs. WSU has the #1 student success rate of Minnesota state schools, with 92% of students receiving jobs in a field related to their degree after graduation. The university’s Winona campus is situated along the beautiful banks of the Mississippi River, giving students easy access to rock climbing, kayaking, hiking, and all sorts of outdoor adventure.


Learn more about WSU and what it takes to get accepted.


18. Bowling Green State University


Location: Bowling Green, Ohio
Undergrad Enrollment: 14,400
Acceptance Rate: 79%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 990-1200/19-25
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $25,035/$33,023


Bowling Green State University is known for structuring education in a way that leads students to live meaningful and productive lives. BGSU is particularly focused on the idea of the greater good and community values. With that goal in mind, BGSU has many partnerships with other organizations dedicated to the greater good: The Center for Justice Research (in collaboration with the Ohio Attorney General), The Center for Advanced Manufacturing (in collaboration with other service-centered institutions), Cedar Fair Resort and Attraction Management program, and a public health partnership with the Wood County Health Department. Students who value diversity, respect, understanding, and improvement will be drawn to BGSU’s mission.


Learn more about BGSU and what it takes to get accepted.


19. Brigham Young University


Location: Provo, Utah
Undergrad Enrollment: 31,600
Acceptance Rate: 79%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1230-1420/26-32
Total Cost: $14,168


Brigham Young University is affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you’re affiliated with the church, you’re charged less than a non-church member, similar to in-state vs. out-of-state costs. Due to their religious affiliation, BYU identifies its goal as “to individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life.” BYU boasts excellent language programs, offering courses in 62 different languages. A whopping 65% of students speak a second language. BYU has Division I athletic programs and a number of visual and performing arts opportunities for students.


Learn more about BYU and what it takes to get accepted.


20. Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania


Location: Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania
Undergrad Enrollment: 6,900
Acceptance Rate: 79%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 970-1150/18-26
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $20,775/$24,883


Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania is, of course, located in Slippery Rock. Slippery Rock is known as an artsy college town, filled with street fairs, jazz ensembles, and public art. Students at SRU can also participate in Division II sports and a large Greek life population. Academically, the university offers 150 undergraduate majors and minors, research opportunities, and service-learning programs. There is an Honors College at SRU for competitive students who are interested in a more interdisciplinary approach to learning. 


Learn more about the SRU and what it takes to get accepted.


21. UNC Charlotte


Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Undergrad Enrollment: 24,100
Acceptance Rate: 79%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1090-1280/20-26
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $20,083/$33,517


UNC Charlotte is North Carolina’s urban research university. The professors at the school are known for outstanding research, which trickles down to a student body that is very invested in research and changing the world. Students are drawn to UNC–Charlotte due to its contemporary campus and the urban life offered by the quickly-growing Charlotte area. Charlotte’s light rail provides students easy access to the city through the UNC Charlotte Main Station. 


Learn more about UNC Charlotte and what it takes to get accepted.


22. UNC Wilmington


Location: Wilmington, North Carolina
Undergrad Enrollment: 24,100
Acceptance Rate: 79%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1220-1320/24-28
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $20,083/$33,517


UNC Wilmington is a great school that draws students in for several reasons. First of all, Wilmington is a great place to be. The weather is nice, and students have easy access to both the city and the beaches. The school also has a strong sports culture that centers around the school’s Division I basketball team. Perhaps most importantly, students appreciate the size of UNCW as they have abundant opportunities offered through the school, but can form tight-knit and meaningful communities. 


Learn more about UNC Wilmington and what it takes to get accepted.


23. Western Carolina University


Location: Cullowhee, North Carolina
Undergrad Enrollment: 10,100
Acceptance Rate: 79%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1128-1310/21-26
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $15,464/$19,464


Western Carolina University is known for the opportunities that students have access to—particularly the adventure opportunities! Surrounded by the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains, the students’ lives are filled with adventure, recreation, and experiential learning. The school offers several unique programs including an Honors Program, cooperative education programs with other schools, and study abroad opportunities. One interesting thing that WCU is known for is the “body farm,” which is a human decomposition center where students can learn about forensic anthropology and the process of human decomposition. 


Learn more about WCU and what it takes to get accepted.


24. SUNY Oswego


Location: Oswego, New York
Undergrad Enrollment: 6,100
Acceptance Rate: 80%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1070-1240/21-26
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $23,409/$33,319


Like the other SUNY schools, SUNY Oswego is known for its welcoming atmosphere and beautiful campus. That said, SUNY Oswego is specifically known for its loyal alumni base, which can be extremely valuable for students after graduation. Students at SUNY Oswego are expected to push the boundaries of traditional higher education. 


Learn more about SUNY Oswego and what it takes to get accepted.


25. University of Minnesota Duluth


Location: Duluth, Minnesota
Undergrad Enrollment: 9,000
Acceptance Rate: 80%
Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1110-1350/22-28
Total Cost In-state/Out-of-state: $22,646/$27,944


University of Minnesota–Duluth is known for having the advantages of a small liberal arts school and the resources of a large research university. The school’s beautiful campus overlooks Lake Superior, with unparalleled opportunities in nature. The school offers over 160 majors and minors, with 8 pre-professional programs, and many other internships, study abroad opportunities, internships, and research opportunities available for students. Students think of themselves as open-minded.


Learn more about the UMD and what it takes to get accepted.


Do You Have a Balanced College List?


As you’ve learned, it is important to include safety schools when creating your balanced college list. We’ve made it easy to figure out which schools fall into the ‘safety school’ category for you with our free Admissions Chances Calculator


This tool will let you know your odds of acceptance at specific schools and will give you tips on improving your profile. Try putting in these 25 schools and any others that have caught your eye, so that you can narrow down your list and ultimately apply to 2-3 safety schools, 4-5 target schools, and 2-3 reach schools. 


With the tool, you can also specifically search for schools based on preferences like location, major, cost, and more. 

Brooke Elkjer
Blog Writer

Short Bio
Brooke is a film and television production assistant, originally from Dallas, Texas. She holds Bachelor’s degrees in English and Neuroscience from the University of Southern California. At USC, Brooke was a producer for the intersectional feminist production company on campus, a Resident Assistant (RA), and a student worker for the Thematic Option Honors GE Program. In her free time, Brooke enjoys reading, writing, and watching Gilmore Girls.