Just about everyone applying to college has been told to apply to a few "reach" schools, a few "target" schools, and a few "safety" schools. Why safety schools? The most obvious reason is if the student gets denied (aka rejected) from every reach and target school, they will still have a college to attend in the Fall. However, safety schools are good for parents for two other big reasons: your student's stress level and self esteem, and for financial reasons.
Your student can have a lower-stress experience, and have higher self esteem if they attend a safety school where they are in the top 25% academically of all students. This is the big fish in a small pond scenario, and as long as your student finds like-minded students at his/her school, they will be happy and feel good about themselves when they get great grades.
Financially, a safety school is your student's best option for the least expensive way to attend college. Why? Because all safety schools want to improve their academic reputations by enrolling excellent students. If your student has higher academic credentials than the average student at that school, they will show your student how much they want them to attend in the form of merit scholarships. Sometimes this is called a financial safety school. This merit money can sometimes reduce the cost of a school to a price below the student's own state university. For example, the University of Alabama offers full scholarships to out of state students with excellent grades. Finally, if your student gets a great merit scholarship offer and still wants an academically challenging environment, they should look into one of the many state university honors colleges that are now available.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!