Should You Apply to a Safety School?:

by on May 6th, 2011

First, what is a safety school?

A safety school is not a school that you would not attend. It makes no sense whatsoever to apply to programs you wouldn’t attend.

A safety school is one where you are highly competitive and that is strong in your area of interest, but it not as highly regarded overall. And here I use the rankings as a proxy for reputation. The school must still support your particular goals, but it doesn’t have the overall brand value of some of the more competitive schools.

How do you determine if a school supports your goals?

First, separate professional goals and educational means:

  1. Professional goals are what you want to do after your degree. Are graduates hired in good numbers for the positions you would like to obtain? Do the companies you would like to work for recruit on campus? Is the alumni network strong in your field?
  2. Does the curriculum teach you what you want to learn in the way you want to learn it? Does it teach you what you need to learn to go down your chosen professional path. Are professors prominent in your area of interest?

If you conclude that no school meets the above criteria, then you should probably just progress in your career without the additional degree. On the other hand, many of you will find programs where you are much more competitive and that do support your goals. They will be your insurance policy if you are applying with a less-than-perfect profile to programs with cut-throat competition. They may also prove to be more generous with financial aid.

Whether to apply to a safety school or not, like so many questions in admissions, is determined individually. There are no across-the-board rules. Use the above criteria to guide you as you decide where to apply next year.

Learn more about assessing your profile and choosing the b-school that’s best for you by reading’s popular special report, Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One!

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