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XanthusARES

Safety Schools

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So we're right in the midst of application season. Most applicants have completed their school lists, GMAT or GRE, picked out their LOR's, and, hopefully, started, if not finished, their SOPs. So this post is not particularly timely, but, alas, we press on.

A common theme amongst my posts as of late has been school selection (I'm way too lazy to post links to previous threads, but believe me they exist). A big reason for this is that I have extremely strong opinions about selecting schools to which you should apply. Secondarily, school selection questions are some of the most asked questions on this site (based on a cursory reading of every post ever written here, when I had much more time than I do now). Tertiarily, school selection is really important. Where you decide that you are going to spend the next 5 years of your life actually determines, to a large extent, where you are going to spend the next 30 years of your life.

Today's post is going to be about safety schools. What I'm going to say will definitely offend some people, and will, probably, be a topic of hot discussion. That's good, that's the point of online forums and I welcome dissidence. Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions below.

To put it bluntly, DO NOT APPLY TO SAFETY SCHOOLS! With the caveat that you should apply to a safety school if you would actually go there if accepted. What many of us don't say is that our acceptance into a program is a rejection for somebody else. That's just the way the system works.

First of all, applying to schools you would never go to is a real d^@# move. When you do this you are basically saying that you would rather get an ego boost than allow someone who really wants to go to a school in.

Second, if you have done the proper research to find schools that are good fits for you both in relation to your stats and your research interests, you don't need to apply to a safety school. In fact doing so will take away time that could have been spent better tailoring your application to schools you would actually attend.
I understand that applications are a daunting task to us. Having your life's dreams and ambitions hinging on a few pieces of papers is scary. We all get it. I'm not calling you a bad person for adding that safety school to your list, we've all been tempted to do so. I'm simply asking you to think about the consequences of your actions. I'm also asking you to understand the importance and seriousness of selecting the right list of schools. It will honestly pay dividends to start early.

Finally, if you only get into your safety school and you do decide to go there are you really going to be happy? What happens in October when you're sitting in class thinking about how awesome it would have been to be at school X? If you have specific problems which can be addressed which would get you into a better program, address those issues, reapply and get into that better program. Trust me the extra year means nothing in the long term. Do it. You'll be much happier.

Maybe others disagree. That's fine. In the end you all are going to do what you all are going to anyway, regardless of some random guy's thoughts on the internet. Good luck!
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