Choosing a Financial Safety School


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Making college contingency plans is entirely antithetical to the passion-filled optimism pulsating through the average teenage brain. Counting on your son or daughter to make a post-secondary backup plan is like expecting Romeo and Juliet to respond to their parent-mandated breakup with an unemotional resolve to “see other people.”

Even if your child is focused on attacking his or her applications to Ivy League schools with military precision, he or she is unlikely planning for a less-than-ideal outcome of a safety school. For those without unlimited funds at their disposal, having what is known as a “financial safety school” should be of equal importance.

Financial Safety Schools Defined

The criteria for what constitutes a financial safety school varies based on your child’s unique academic profile, as well as your own financial situation. However, two tenets of a solid financial safety school are universal:

1. Your teen’s chances of acceptance at this college are pretty much guaranteed because of his or her standardized test scores, GPA and class rank are significantly above the averages for an accepted student — and even better than those in the 75th percentile at that particular institution.

2. You, as parents, are comfortable covering 100 percent of the tuition, room and board, and other fees. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have the cash on hand to cover the entire expense — few do. But it does mean that you have a plan to cover the cost, even if it means taking out low-interest government loans.

Who Needs a Financial Safety School?

All college applicants, even those at the top of the applicant food chain, need a safety school. But not every applicant needs a financial safety school. If you have more than $200,000 in your child’s 529 account or happen to be extremely well-off, you don’t need to pick a financial safety school.

The most expensive schools in the country, which include institutions such as New York University, Harvey Mudd College and the University of Southern California, all cost upwards of $66,000 dollars per year, translating to a grand total of $264,000 for a bachelor’s degree, significantly more than the average home price in the U.S. If that number doesn’t make you cringe, you can stop reading this column right now. For everyone else, read on.

Picking a Good Fit

It won’t be hard to find colleges and universities that meet the above criteria. The challenge will be finding an institution that meets both of those critical standards and is a school your student would genuinely like to attend. Here’s an example scenario.

Jenny lives in Delaware. Her parents earn a combined annual income of $135,000 but do not have much money saved to cover college tuition bills. Jenny has a SAT score of 1370, has taken seven AP courses and ranks in the top 10 percent of her class at her public high school. She wants to major in economics and stay on the East Coast.

Lehigh and Bucknell universities in Pennsylvania, Trinity College in Connecticut, and George Washington University in Washington D.C. are Jenny’s target schools, at which she is confident she has a 50-50 or better chance at admission. For safety schools, she will fill out applications for Rutgers, Syracuse and Iowa State universities. Let’s examine what is wrong with these choices.

Rutgers (out of state) and Syracuse (private) universities won’t come cheap, and while Jenny is likely to be offered some merit aid, this is an uncertainty.

The perfect financial safety school for Jenny is actually in her own backyard. The University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics has a strong reputation and admits two-thirds of its applicants. Her SAT score ranks well above the 75th percentile and the total four-year cost is right around $100,000, making the University of Delaware ideal from both an admissions and academic standpoint.

The Bottom Line

Planning for doomsday scenarios is not nearly as exciting as dreaming about receiving an acceptance letter from a dream college, but it can be a dangerous task to neglect. Students who thoughtfully select a quality financial safety school can breathe easier as they await financial and merit aid notifications from their top-choice schools.

While your young adult can and should be in the driver’s seat through much the application process, parental intervention may be necessary to ensure he or she doesn’t experience the college admissions-equivalent tragic fate met by the young lovers from the houses of Capulet and Montague.


Dave Bergman, Ed.D., is a co-founder of College Transitions and co-author of “The Enlightened College Applicant: A New Approach to the Search and Admissions Process.” Learn more at collegetransitions.com.

 

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College Transitions

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College Transitions is a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. As counselors and published higher education researchers, we aim to bring perspective (and some sanity) to college planning, and we strive to provide students with the support they need to enroll and succeed at a college that is right for them. Learn more at collegetransitions.com

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January 2019

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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💕It's time to consign at Cary's BIGGEST Consignment sale - Voted BEST in the Triangle and Top 10 in the Nation! ✳️Register now at KidsEveryWEAR.com ✳️Read our website's consignor...

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Where:
Cary Towne Center
1105 Walnut St
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Kids EveryWEAR Consignment Sale
Contact Name: Gail Walker
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Spend the afternoon helping to maintain and beautify the nature center. Ages 16 and older.

Cost: Free

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Cost: 0

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Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Cost: $7 ages 1 and older

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Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Rale, NC
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Good Hope Farm
1580 Morrisville Carpenter Rd.
Cary, NC
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Cost: Free

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Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
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Cost: $15 or use your package/membership

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Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East St.
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Cost: Free

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Northgate Mall
1058 W Club Blvd, Northgate Mall, I-85 Exit 176
Durham, NC  27701
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Telephone: 919-696-0142
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Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
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Leesville Dental Studio
13220 Strickland Rd, Suite 166
Raleigh, NC  27613
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Telephone: 919-238-7729
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Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Book Harvest
Telephone: (252) 497-BOOK
Contact Name: Daniele Berman
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Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 191-946-03355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Cost: $15/child, use your package/membership.

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Kids Mindful Movement - Chapel Hill
781 Mt Carmel Church Rd
chapel hill, NC  27517
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Cost: $18/resident, $23/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
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Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

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Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East Street
Pittsboro, NC  27312
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Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 191-946-03355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
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Cost: $23/resident, $30/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: $15/class, or use your class pass/membership.

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Kids Mindful Movement - Chapel Hill
781 Mt. Carmel Church Rd.
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Cost: $5/person, $2 for ages 2 and younger

Where:
The Halle Cultural Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Cost: $5/person, $2 for ages 2 and younger

Where:
The Halle Cultural Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
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Parents learn meaningful coping strategies to benefit themselves and their child. Register online. Choose course #121424.

Cost: $11/resident, $15/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
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Cost: $19/person

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Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC
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Cost: 0

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 191-924-52539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Cost: $18/resident, $23/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park Community Center
150 Metro Park Dr.
Cary, NC  27513
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Enjoy popcorn with a family-friendly movie while being comfy in your pajamas. Refreshments provided.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
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Enjoy fun, games, friendship and more every Friday.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
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Cost: $25

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 188-858-79530
Contact Name: hoa bui
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Go Fort and build! Pitch your tent then curl up with a good book. Bring your blankets and a flashlight. We’ll provide the s'mores!

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 191-924-52539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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Teens learn tips to improve their ACT scores. Register online. 

Cost: $129.99

Where:
Wake Technical Community College – Southern Campus
9101 Fayetteville Rd
Raleigh, NC
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Sponsor: Doorway to College Foundation
Contact Name: Kelsey Foster
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Enjoy single rider snow tubing at Bond Park. Ages 5 and older. See website for 45-minute sessions. Ages 5 and younger can take part in a parent-child snow tubing session on Saturday from...

Cost: $19/person

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC
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The museum partners with NASA and the Raleigh Astronomy Club for Astronomy Days, an annual event that features comet crafts, solar observing, lectures, rocket launches and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Dorton Arena, North Carolina State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

Where:
Sk8 Cary
2040 NW Maynard Rd
Cary , NC
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Sponsor: Athlete Recovery Fund - Sk8 Cary
Telephone: 919-802-6828
Contact Name: Erin Laskowich
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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Little Guru Kids Yoga and Creative Arts
215 Glenwood Ave., Suite A
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Little Guru Kids Yoga
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Contact Name: Jen Fisher
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Cost: $7/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
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Orange County Public Library
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Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Cost: Free

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