Columbia | Mr. MD
GMAT 630, GPA 3.24
MIT Sloan | Mr. Unicorn Strategy
GMAT 740 (estimated), GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. MacGruber
GRE 313, GPA 3.7
Berkeley Haas | Mr. 1st Gen Grad
GMAT 740, GPA 3.1
London Business School | Mr. Green Energy
GMAT 710, GPA 3.1
Harvard | Mr. Investment Banker
GMAT 750, GPA 4.0
Wharton | Ms. Future CEO
GMAT 710, GPA 3.0
Harvard | Ms. Media Entertainment
GMAT 740, GPA 3.3
Chicago Booth | Mr. Civil Engineer
GMAT 770, GPA 8.9/10
Harvard | Mr. Colombian Consultant
GMAT 710, GPA 3.96
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Tech Evangelist
GMAT 690, GPA 3.2
Tuck | Mr. Winning Team
GMAT 760, GPA 7.95 out of 10
Berkeley Haas | Ms. Midwest Startup
GRE 328, GPA 3.51
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Emporio Armani
GMAT 780, GPA 3.03
Foster School of Business | Mr. CPG Tech
GMAT 770, GPA 2.9
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Agribusiness
GRE 308, GPA 3.04
Tuck | Ms. Green Biz
GRE 326, GPA 3.2
Kenan-Flagler | Ms. Nonprofit Admin
GMAT 620, GPA 3.3
Kellogg | Mr. Finance To Consulting
GMAT 700, GPA 3.7
Wharton | Ms. Healthcare Visionary
GMAT 720, GPA 3.4
Tepper | Mr. Tech Strategist
GRE 313, GPA 3.0
London Business School | Mr. Indian Electric Tech
GMAT 620, GPA 3.5
Duke Fuqua | Mr. 911 System
GMAT 690, GPA 3.02
Stanford GSB | Mr. Techie Teacher
GMAT 760, GPA 3.80
Wharton | Mr. Small Biz Leader
GMAT 700, GPA 2.61
London Business School | Mr. CFA Charterholder
GMAT 770, GPA 3.94
Harvard | Mr. Hustler
GMAT 760, GPA 4

What You Need To Know About Safety Schools

What you need to know about safety schools

There is a lot of confusion about safety schools.  What constitutes a safety school, given your individual candidacy?  Should everyone apply to a safety?  If so, when and how many?  I encourage North Star’s clients to apply to a range of programs, and to follow these guidelines when identifying their target schools:

  • It’s not a safety if you wouldn’t go there.

Don’t apply to a program just because you think that you can get in.  If a school isn’t a good fit, isn’t worth the investment or otherwise doesn’t offer what you are looking for, it’s not worth applying.

  • If you are too overqualified, you may not get in.

Schools are concerned about yield, and they do not want to offer seats in the class to people who are unlikely to matriculate.  Choose a safety program where your grades, experience and test scores are a bit above the average, but not so far above that the admissions committee denies your application because they assume that you will go to a more selective school.

  • Apply early, so that you can focus on your top choice schools.

It is a huge relief to know that you can attend a school that you are excited about, even if it’s not your dream program.  Applying early in the cycle (and getting in) means that you do not have to send out as many applications, and allows you to concentrate on honing your candidacy for the more aspirational schools on your list.

  • Options are good.

What if you were offered full tuition at a less selective program, but one that you would still be happy to attend?  Even if you decide to enroll elsewhere, it’s always great to have choices.

  • There is no such thing as a true safety.

Admissions demographics fluctuate year to year.  Also, the best applications are about much more than numbers, which means that you can’t rely on your grades and tests scores alone.  Since you are putting in so much work refining your candidacy, it makes sense to apply to a range of schools.


Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Duke, Georgetown, Haas, Ross, NYU and more. Over the last three years, clients have been awarded more than 10.3 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 95% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.