Good Safety Schools for 4.0 GPA Students (2023)

Even with good grades, you need safety schools. A perfect GPA used to serve as a veritable golden ticket into elite colleges, but these days it’s far more competitive. Even valedictorians with perfect test scores get turned down by their dream schools.

Having a good mix of reach, match, and safety schools is the best way to ensure you’ll have plenty of options. Even if you don’t get accepted by your first choice, you’ll end up at a great school.

This guide lists 10 of the best safety schools for 4.0 GPA students.

Good Safety Schools for 4.0 GPA Students (1)

Table of Contents

  • The Best Safety Schools for 4.0 GPA Students
    • National Universities
      • The University of Texas at Austin
      • The University of Iowa
      • Iowa State University
      • West Virginia University
      • The University of Mississippi
    • Liberal Arts Colleges
      • Gettysburg College
      • Furman University
      • Sewanee: The University of the South
      • Whitman College
      • Centre College
  • Safety Schools for 4.0 GPA Students: The Bottom Line

The Best Safety Schools for 4.0 GPA Students

So, what makes a college or university a good safety school for a student with a 4.0 GPA? We considered several factors to ensure that the schools on our list offer straight-A students a very high (though not always 100%) chance of admission.

Here’s what we looked for. Every school on our list fits into at least one of these categories:

  • Schools with guaranteed admission based on GPA or class rank. This is pretty self-explanatory. If a school offers guaranteed admission for a certain GPA or above, and your GPA is above that threshold, then you’re in. No need to hold your breath and worry.
  • Schools with acceptance rates above 75%. A college with an acceptance rate above 75% tends to be a fairly safe bet for students with perfect GPAs, even if the school requires the SAT or ACT.
  • Schools with acceptance rates above 50% and test-optional admission. A test-optional school will judge your application based strictly on your GPA along with factors such as leadership and extracurriculars.
  • Schools with GPA-based guaranteed scholarships. If you qualify for a guaranteed scholarship based on your GPA, there’s a very good chance you’ll be admitted to the school, even if the terms of the scholarship don’t specifically say so.

We also broke down our list into two categories: national universities and liberal arts colleges.

National Universities

The University of Texas at Austin

  • Location: Austin, TX
  • Acceptance rate: 29%
  • Test-optional admissions: Yes
Good Safety Schools for 4.0 GPA Students (2)

The University of Texas at Austin is one of the most prestigious public universities not just in the country but in the world. And with an acceptance rate of 29%, it’s hard to call it a safety school for anyone, even a student with top grades.

That said, the reason it’s on our list is because of its guaranteed admission policy for Texas residents. If you rank in the top 6% of your high school class at a Texas high school, you are guaranteed admission to UT-Austin no matter what the rest of your application looks like.

Now, a 4.0 GPA may or may not put you in the top 6% of your class. It depends on how your high school weights grades. But if you live in Texas and rank in the top 6%, applying to UT-Austin is a no-brainer.

On the other hand, if you live outside of Texas, UT-Austin is anextremely difficult school to get into, even if your grades and test scores are perfect. The reason is simple supply and demand. So many in-state students take advantage of their top 6% policy that the school simply doesn’t have many slots left over for out-of-staters.

The University of Iowa

  • Location: Iowa City, IA
  • Acceptance rate: 86%
  • Test-optional admissions: Yes

The University of Iowa is another well-regarded flagship state school, ranking in the top 100 in U.S. News. It’s also a great safety school for 4.0 GPA students because of its guaranteed admissions matrix.

All of the state schools in Iowa use a proprietary formula that considers your core unweighted GPA along with either your ACT or SAT score, and your total number of core high school credits.

If the formula spits out a number above a certain value, you’re in like Flynn. A typical student with a 4.0 only needs an ACT score in the low 20s or an SAT in the 1000s to get in based on the matrix.

And if your SAT and ACT are really bad, or if you didn’t take them, Iowa also offers test-optional admissions.

Iowa State University

  • Location: Ames, IA
  • Acceptance rate: 91%
  • Test-optional admissions: Yes

Iowa State has the exact same admission policies as its in-state rival, the University of Iowa. Put your GPA and SAT/ACT (assuming you took one or both) into a formula, shake it up, and if the result is above the magic threshold, you’re accepted.

The cool thing about the Iowa schools is that the guaranteed admission matrix applies not just to in-state students but to out-of-state students as well. However, out-of-state students have a slightly higher threshold to meet.

West Virginia University

  • Location: Morgantown, WV
  • Acceptance rate: 92%
  • Test-optional admissions: Yes

West Virginia University is popular not only with in-state students but also with out-of-staters all over the Mid-Atlantic region and even New England.

Many students choose WVU because of its active social scene, breathtaking campus, and proximity to skiing and other outdoor activities.

Others pick it because the academics are surprisingly strong for a school with over a 90% acceptance rate.

But one of the biggest reasons WVU gets so many out-of-state students is because it’s a virtual shoo-in if you have a high GPA. The school has a scholarship matrix that awards out-of-state students as much as $16,000 per year if they have a 4.0 GPA and an ACT above 31 or SAT above 1390.

If you don’t want to submit your test scores, you can still get as much as $12,000 a year in scholarship money just for having a perfect high school GPA.

The University of Mississippi

  • Location: Oxford, MS
  • Acceptance rate: 90%
  • Test-optional admissions: No (except for students unable to access a test due to documented hardship)

The University of Mississippi, or “Ole Miss” as it’s commonly known, is another school like WVU that has a generous guaranteed scholarship program for out-of-state students.

With a 3.0 high school GPA or higher and a 33 ACT or 1,450 SAT, you can get a full-tuition scholarship from Ole Miss. Even if your test scores are as low as 25 for the ACT and 1,200 for the SAT, you still qualify for $5,500 a year in total scholarship money.

And if you’ve never been to The Grove in Oxford on a fall Saturday, it’s something to experience.

Liberal Arts Colleges

Gettysburg College

  • Location: Gettysburg, PA
  • Acceptance rate: 56%
  • Test-optional admissions: Yes
Good Safety Schools for 4.0 GPA Students (3)

Gettysburg College is a highly regarded liberal arts college with a campus situated along the historic Civil War battlefields of Gettysburg, PA.

It has had a test-optional admission policy for many years, and it ranks high school GPA among the most important factors it looks at when making admission decisions.

Gettysburg is an ideal place to go to college if you want an active social life (the Greek scene is huge there) as well as a rigorous liberal arts education. Political science, economics, and history (of course) are some of the majors where Gettysburg excels.

Furman University

  • Location: Greenville, SC
  • Acceptance rate: 71%
  • Test-optional admissions: Yes

With nearly 3,000 students, Furman University is on the large side for a “small” liberal arts college, making it an ideal pick for a student who wants small classes taught by actual professors and not to be treated like a number but doesn’t want a school so tiny it feels like high school all over again.

Furman has test-optional admissions and an acceptance rate of 71%, making it an excellent safety school for students with high GPAs. It’s a popular safety for students shooting for schools like Davidson, Richmond, and Wake Forest.

And many kids who don’t get into those schools and are relegated to Furman end up saying it was the best thing that could’ve happened to them.

Sewanee: The University of the South

  • Location: Sewanee, TN
  • Acceptance rate: 60%
  • Test-optional admissions: Yes

Sewanee, a small but highly regarded liberal arts college with a campus situated on 13,000 stunning acres spread across a Tennessee mountaintop, was one of the first prestigious schools to announce it was going test-optional. That was more than a decade ago, and they’ve kept the policy in force ever since.

The admissions office at Sewanee makes it no secret that they’re big on high school GPA, believing it to be the best predictor of success in college. So if you’re an A student looking for a top liberal arts college where you can be reasonably sure you can get in, and you like the idea of a rural setting, you should definitely have Sewanee on your list.

Whitman College

  • Location: Walla Walla, WA
  • Acceptance rate: 59%
  • Test-optional admissions: Yes

Whitman College is another school with an out-of-the-way location — the metropolis of Walla Walla, Washington — that would probably have an acceptance rate below 20% if it were located somewhere more “hip.”

But, if you’re looking for a top liberal arts college where you have a high chance of being accepted, Whitman’s locational challenge is your gain. The school admits nearly 6 of 10 students, and it’s test-optional, so you have a great shot of getting in on your GPA alone.

Centre College

  • Location: Danville, KY
  • Acceptance rate: 69%
  • Test-optional admissions: Yes

Rounding out our list of the top safety schools for 4.0 GPA students is Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. This is another school that could hold its own with the NESCAC colleges or Davidson, but because it’s in rural Kentucky, most people either haven’t heard of it or don’t bother applying.

Centre’s student body comes mostly from Kentucky, though that’s slowly changing as the school is being discovered up and down the Mid-Atlantic region and into the Midwest.

It only recently became test-optional, and the school hasn’t said whether it plans to keep that policy in place permanently or just as long as it feels the pandemic still might be affecting students’ ability to take the SAT or ACT.

Safety Schools for 4.0 GPA Students: The Bottom Line

Even if you’re a top student with perfect or near-perfect grades, it’s important to have at least a few safety schools because it gives you a backup plan in case your first choice doesn’t work out. And for many students, their safety school ends up becoming their dream school, even if they don’t realize it until they get there!


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