By: Susanna Cerasuolo, M.Ed.
You should strongly consider your Safety school as a real option, for many good reasons. No matter what your grades and test scores, somewhere on your college list you need to have a couple of schools that you know for a fact you can get into. These schools are called Safety schools because they allow you to make sure that you get into college. Because of the word Safety, many students are prone to dismiss these schools as “last” options, but I would urge you to think otherwise.
1. You can get a great education there
It is very, very difficult for people with PhD’s to find teaching positions at universities. In fact, job openings in academia are so scarce that many of the professors at community colleges today have full PhD’s, which did not use to be the case. The important point to note is: the people teaching at your Safety school have Doctorates. They are experts. And they are very happy to have those jobs, because jobs as professors are scarce, so you can get a great education from studying with them. You can get a great education wherever you go. Also consider that many faculty teach at a certain university because they want to live near there because maybe that’s where their family lives. Big cities are not for everyone, and some faculty choose to reside in small towns or rural areas because they prefer the lifestyle. All universities have faculty of whom they are extremely proud, so research your colleges and find out who’s teaching at each one. You might be surprised. There are also smart kids on every college campus, so you can find these serious students and make them your peer group. You can inspire and challenge one another.
2. You can often get great merit aid because the college would be attracted to your high grades and test scores.
Colleges are very concerned–sadly–about their place in the dubious “rankings”. While this is largely a negative in my book, it can help you in this case. If your average GPA and test scores are higher than the college’s averages, that is to say, if you would increase their “numbers”, then they are likely to offer you Merit Aid in an effort to attract you to come. TAKE IT. This is awesome, free money. WooHoo! You can get a great education and graduate with little or no debt–that is a fact to celebrate.
3. You can stand out as an intellectual
If you are a library-loving note-taker of the geekiest order (join the club!), then it could be a good idea for you to consider your Safety school because you could easily distinguish yourself by being at the top of your class. Don’t underestimate the power of graduating Summa Cum Laude, with Honors and Distinction, Phi Beta Kappa, a published author, and a Fulbright to boot. Grad schools and employers love a decorated resume.
4. You will get many opportunities for undergraduate research and special offerings
When you are an enthusiastic learner and a conscientious scholar, your superiors take notice and they will often offer for you to take advantage of special offerings, trips, events, and projects on campus. Faculty want to work with bright students who are reliable and pleasant, so they will be looking around for someone to help on the research project or someone to take on the study abroad trip. Also, your Advisor will see your intellectual enthusiasm and will help you excel by working with you to allow you to double or triple major, or to substitute your lower loevel classes for higher level ones. Similarly, college administrators often need undergrads to meet alumni and donors at campus events. When you distinguish yourself among your peers in class and on campus, you get lots of fun perks. I met Henry Kissinger this way and once ate steak tips and drank champagne–on campus! It was awesome. And then the next day, in the Commons, I ate oatmeal, but whatever!
5. You will rather easily be able to secure outstanding rec letters for jobs and grad school.
In order to get into grad school (which many of you will probably consider) you will need 3 letters of recommendation from faculty who know you well and respect your scholarship. If you are doing well academically, you can stand out and get terrific rec letters. Consider applying for the Honors Program. I also recommend taking several classes from the same faculty members so that they can really get to know you. You do not need to be a brown-noser or fake; just do what you love and really get into it and people will notice.
At the end of the academic day, you get out what you put in, so if you are an amazing student, you’ll get an amazing education–wherever you go. I’d like to put in a word for your Safety school and the fabulous faculty teaching there. Consider it…