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Mission Admission: Safety Schools

Mission Admission is a series of MBA admission tips; a new one is posted each Tuesday.

For many candidates, the third round is a time to sit back, relax and wait for the MBA Admissions Committees to make their decisions. However, for others, the third round is a time to be conservative and apply to a safety school. But, what constitutes a safety school?

While it is difficult to determine exactly what a safety school is (as there are many variables and the definition can shift depending on each candidate) a good place to start is with scores. If a candidate’s GMAT and GPA are significantly higher than the target school’s average, then the school is, at first glance, safe. So, if you have a 740 GMAT and a 3.8 GPA and you are applying to Emory’s Goizueta School, (average GMAT 685 and GPA 3.3) you are off to a promising start.

Then, you might consider your work experience relative to the target program. For example, many Goldman Sachs investment banking “alums” apply to and are admitted to the so called M7 schools (Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, Chicago, Columbia and MIT). So, if you happen to be such a candidate, choosing a school outside of this tier would certainly make you more competitive (keeping in mind scores, community service and recommendations as well).

Finally, you might consider the general selectivity of the program. If you consider yourself to be competitive at Columbia Business School, where they accept 16% of applicants, applying to Texas, where 34% are accepted may be a safe option.

Before you start applying to your safety schools, the most important question to ask yourself is actually quite simple: “Would I go?” There is, of course, no point in spending time applying to an MBA program that you would not attend. If you choose to apply to such a school (as some do), rather ironically, you will have no safety net at all.




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