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How to find great safety schools using teaching quality

In Application, Parent, School List and Senior.

FACT: A lot of you are looking at your college list right now and scratching your head over your safety schools.

Not necessarily because your safeties aren’t actually all that “safe” (although if you’re anything like my students, they probably aren’t), but for another reason:

You don’t really want to attend any of them.

This is a classic issue.

Folks load up their lists with name-brand, super-selective colleges and universities then have a hard time finding safeties they could actually stand to attend. This is, for obvious reasons, a recipe for disaster.

I’m here to suggest a simple but oft-overlooked metric for finding safeties that you might actually really enjoy.

You ready?

Build your safety school list around undergraduate teaching quality

Boom. That’s it. Find schools that are well-known for undergraduate teaching quality.

Why is this a great metric?

For one, you are undergraduates who are going to college to get taught.

But in study after study (here’s one), it’s shown that students who have access to high-quality instruction take the most from their college experiences. It’s one of the highest correlatives to post-graduate outcomes and college experience across the board.

“But,” you intone, “won’t I have the best in-classroom experience at HYPSM?”

No. Not necessarily.

Let me do your work for you and pull up 7 national universities with high acceptance rates that are also in the top 50 for undergraduate teaching quality. (These rankings are all based on US News, so I guess that’s a caveat for some people.)

These are just universities. Liberal arts colleges are separate.

7 safety schools with amazing undergraduate teaching quality

I ONLY picked ones that have relatively high acceptance rates. I wanted to also show national rank, so that’s the second #.

  • Elon University — 78% acceptance rate, #2 best UG teaching, #88 national rank
  • Arizona State University–Tempe – 86.5% acceptance rate, 16th best UG teaching #103 national rank
  • Gonzaga University – 62% acceptance rate, #18 best UG teaching, #80 national rank
  • Marquette University – 83% acceptance rate, #18 best UG teaching, #88 national rank
  • Creighton University – 73.7% acceptance rate, #25th best in UG teaching, 112th national rank
  • Miami University, Oxford – 80% acceptance rate, #25 best UG teaching, #103 national rank(I really like this school and I feel like people sleep on it.)
  • Purdue University – 60% acceptance rate, #36 best UG teaching, #53 national rank

What schools do these 7 beat? 

Ready for the kicker?

ALL OF THESE SCHOOLS are ranked higher for undergraduate teaching than such favorites as…

  • The University of Chicago
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Virginia
  • UNC
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • UC Davis I just learned that UC Davis is #1 national UG teaching and #1 national university in all other categories long life to glorious davis.

Why you need better safety schools

I am not trying to push some argument that T10 schools aren’t good. We all know they’re good.

But in today’s craziness, you need to feel confident in your safeties. And that often means scrutinizing a broader range of schools to find diamonds in the rough.

For my $, professor and teaching quality are really great ways to slice your research. There really is quality all the way down the line when it comes to school choice. You just have to do some thinking and digging.

But my big takeaway is… Get your safeties right! Do the digging now so you have GOOD choices toward the bottom of your list.

I think this is going to be one in a series of posts about different ways to conduct safety research. Hope it was interesting!

About Alex McNeil

Alex is the CEO of McNeil Admissions and the moderator of r/ApplyingToCollege. But most of all, he believes in helping every student access college resources.

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