Safety schools are colleges and universities that prospective students feel reasonably confident about getting into but only kind of, sort of want to attend. They play an important yet underrated role in the giant, frustrating matrix that is the college selection process.
Some applicants are flatly and curtly rejected from their first-choice schools (and their second, and their third, and so on.) For other would-be students, though, it’s more complicated. Students can be admitted to a first-choice college but may not receive enough financial aid. They may be rejected from a specific program. They may not be able to play the sport they want to play, or the instrument, or whatever.
Every school is somebody’s safety school. There’s somebody out there who is all depressed because Princeton said no, so now it’ll have to be Stanford. For other students, they don’t get into the flagship school in their state, so it’s off to the local directional college.
All of that said, these nine very selective colleges and universities tend to be perennial second and third choices for students rejected from other very selective schools which the students view as better and generally more elite.