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?
Determining exactly what a safety school is is difficult (given that many variables must be considered, and the definition can shift depending on the candidate), but 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, for example, if you have a 740 GMAT and a 3.8 GPA and you are applying to Emory’s Goizueta School (average GMAT 680 and GPA 3.4), 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 and are admitted to the so-called M7 schools (Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, Chicago, Columbia and MIT). If you happen to be such a candidate, choosing a school outside this tier would certainly make you more competitive (keeping in mind your scores, community service and recommendations as well).
Finally, you might consider the general selectivity of the program. If you consider yourself a competitive candidate at Columbia Business School, which accepts 15% of applicants, applying to Texas, which accepts 27%, 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?” Ultimately, spending time applying to an MBA program that you would not attend is pointless. If you choose to apply to such a school anyway (as some do), rather ironically, you will find yourself with no safety net at all.