Top Safety Schools by State [Infographic]

arizona state university

Safety Schools Infographic_800pxwideWhat is a Safety School?


Every spring, millions of prospective college students across the country stress over three words: “Accepted,” “Waitlisted,” and “Rejected.” While many community colleges and for-profit universities offer open admissions (no need to apply—you’re in), most brand-name colleges have a formal application process and reject thousands of applicants each year.

As a result, prospective college students often apply to several different schools, including at least one “safety school.” A safety school is typically a school where the particular student is very likely to get accepted and serves as a “safety valve” should the student’s top choices not pan out. It’s important to note that the concept of a safety school is very much dependent on the student. One student’s safety school may be an difficult school for another to get into.

Our Methodology

We sought to identify the most popular safety school for the average student in each state. We identified three key factors that could indicate whether a school is a popular safety school for in-state residents—acceptance rate, yield, and in-state percentage—and gave each equal weight. We also excluded any schools with an undergraduate enrollment of fewer than 5,000 students. All statistics are from 2012-2013 IPEDS data.

The factors:

1. Acceptance Rate – This is the percentage of applicants that are accepted. For our rankings, we assume that a higher acceptance rate means the school is more likely to be a safety school, because the school is a safer bet for the average student.

2. Yield – This is the percentage of accepted students that actually end up enrolling in the school. For our rankings, we assume that a lower yield means the school is more likely to be a safety school because, when given the chance to enroll, many students end up choosing another school.

3. In-State Percentage – This is the percentage of the student body made up of in-state residents. For our rankings, we assume that a higher in-state percentage means the school is more likely to be a safety school for state residents. This also helps us isolate colleges that mostly attract state residents.

Most Popular Safety Schools by State

Niche Grade
School Name
Acceptance Rate
In-State %
A-University of DelawareNewarkDE1555858%28%40%
B+Seton Hall UniversitySouth OrangeNJ502384%17%71%
B+University of Maryland – Baltimore CountyBaltimoreMD937160%30%87%
B+Clemson UniversityClemsonSC1564363%27%61%
B+University of VermontBurlingtonVT995677%14%23%
BArizona State UniversityTempeAZ5048489%35%64%
B University of New HampshireDurhamNH1234278%22%45%
B University of Nevada - RenoRenoNV1241182%45%75%
B University of WyomingLaramieWY831196%41%51%
B- University of California - MercedMercedCA536380%12%100%
B- University of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluHI1197578%39%68%
B- University of Northern IowaCedar FallsIA967977%36%91%
B-Wichita State UniversityWichitaKS867095%41%95%
B-University of Louisiana - MonroeMonroeLA511691%55%90%
B-University of Southern MississippiHattiesburgMS1139365%42%70%
B-University of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotteNC1803970%37%90%
B- North Dakota State UniversityFargoND1071884%53%36%
B- North Mexico State UniversityLas CrucesNM1167380%43%76%
B-Oregon State UniversityCorvallisOR1779478%37%74%
B-University of Rhode IslandKingstonRI1192385%17%48%
B-Utah State UniversityLoganUT1546997%47%74%
B-Radford UniversityRadfordVA802376%33%91%
B-West Virginia UniversityMorgantownWV2111885%38%42%
C+University of South AlabamaMobileAL870887%47%82%
C+Colorado Mesa UniversityGrand JunctionCO701782%44%88%
C+University of West FloridaPensacolaFL759661%22%90%
C+University of North Georgia - GainesvilleOakwoodGA518199%72%98%
C+Southern Illinois University EdwardsvilleEdwardsvilleIL964882%33%92%
C+Morehead State University MoreheadKY589793%44%84%
C+University of Massachusetts - DartmouthNorth DartmouthMA658070%25%95%
C+University of MaineOronoME754978%28%73%
C+Saginaw Valley State UniversityUniversity CenterMI784885%31%97%
C+Southeast Missouri State UniversityCape GirardeauMO809797%47%80%
C+University of MontanaMissoulaMT994181%45%74%
C+University of Nebraska at OmahaOmahaNE914780%49%89%
C+CUNY College of Staten IslandStaten IslandNY991799%27%99%
C+University of AkronAkronOH1704597%40%94%
C+University of Central OklahomaEdmondOK1101079%62%90%
C+Shippensburg University of PennsylvaniaShippensburgPA636381%29%94%
C+South Dakota State UniversityBrookingsSD856292%51%58%
C+East Tennessee State UniversityJohnson CityTN1023487%26%85%
C+Texas A&M University - KingsvilleKingsvilleTX629993%28%98%
C+Central Washington University EllensburgWA925680%40%94%
C+University of Wisconsin - OshkoshOshkoshWI935084%44%94%
CUniversity of Arkansas at Little RockLittle RockAR574999%41%91%
CSouthern Connecticut State UniversityNew HavenCT728975%37%93%
CIndiana State UniversityTerre HauteIN867586%29%80%
CSt. Cloud State UniversitySaint CloudMN1046890%37%88%
C- University of Alaska - AnchorageAnchorageAK786172%69%95%
C- Idaho State UniversityPocatelloID743292%58%86%

The Bottom Line

Applying to a safety school (or two) can help to alleviate some of the stress that comes with the college admissions process. It’s also a good idea to diversify your applications and include a good mix of reach schools, target schools, and safety schools. Remember, just because a college might be a safety school doesn’t mean it’s not a good school. What someone else considers a safety school may turn out to be the best fit for you.