"Safety school" is a term most frequently used in the context of college applications - it refers to a school to which the applicant can expect admission with a good deal of certainty. Applicants are often encouraged to apply to one or two safety schools, so that in case - due to bad luck or overconfidence - they are not admitted to any other colleges, they will still have somewhere to go. The concept of "safety school" is relative - a middling student might have a third-tier state college as their safety school, whereas a very excellently qualified student might consider Penn, Dartmouth, or Cornell (all Ivy League universities) as safety schools.

The term can also be used as an insult, describing the school as easier to gain entry to, and as such posessed of an inferior student body, as compared to the insulter's alma mater. This remark is often made in jest - for example, students at Harvard and Yale, long considered rivals, often describe the other school as a "safety school", even though few applicants would seriously consider either as such.

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