What Likely Letters Mean

Likely Letters, Likely Letter, Getting A Likely Letter

Ivy Coach was referenced in “Business Insider.”

What does a Likely Letter mean? Ivy Coach was cited in a piece in “Business Insider” by veteran education reporter Abby Jackson. The piece, entitled “Hundreds of thousands of college admission decisions drop Thursday – and ‘Likely Letters’ are the first wave,” focuses on how many highly selective colleges try to woo their very top applicants in the Regular Decision round of admissions by sending them Likely Letters. Many of our students at Ivy Coach this year were in receipt of these very Likely Letters. Our favorites were the ones with handwritten notes from admissions officers, citing specifics about the students’ applications.

As Jackson writes, “Likely Letters are notifications sent out to a small number of students before the formal decision date. And although they seem to signal that an acceptance is only likely, not certain, if you receive one of them your acceptance is guaranteed, Brian Taylor, director of Ivy Coach, told Business Insider. ‘Make no mistake, a Likely Letter means you’re getting in,’ he said. ‘It means you’re among the strongest applicants to the university that year,’ Taylor, whose New York-based company provides college consulting services, continued…A Likely Letter aims to endear an applicant to that particular school. The colleges ‘are going with the primacy effect of social psychology and they want to get those letters to [students] first,’ Taylor said. Students become attached to the school that accepts them first, and hopefully choose to attend.”

If you got a Likely Letter, yes, it means you’ll be getting in. And for many students, that day has arrived!

As Brian asserts, colleges are indeed relying on the primacy effect of social psychology to woo their strongest applicants. And our students are always so pumped to receive these Likely Letters. But, over the years, we’ve noticed another social psychological phenomenon at play — the hedonic treadmill. Let’s say a student’s dream school is Yale and they receive a Likely Letter weeks in advance of today, the Regular Decision notification date (congrats to our students who received Likely Letters from Yale!). But then they get all engrossed in the offers that come in after — whether they be acceptances, waitlists, or denials. We always tell students once they get a Likely Letter from a top choice like Yale to sit back and relax. Now you can just see what happens and not get so stressed out. Because, after all, your dream has already been achieved and there’s no need to ride that hedonistic treadmill. And, yes, we’re looking at one student in particular this year. You know who you are.

Oh, and for you worry warts, plenty of students earn admission — including to the Ivy League schools — who don’t receive Likely Letters. Likely Letters are sent to the very top applicants. But there are lots of other students who get admitted too. Indeed the vast majority of admitted students don’t receive Likely Letters. As Dartmouth’s Dr. Seuss said, “Do not fret or fear.”

What A Likely Letter Means

Likely Letter, Likely Letters, Admissions Likely Letters

Congratulations to our students at Ivy Coach who’ve already received Likely Letters this Regular Decision admissions cycle (photo credit: Chensiyuan).

What does a Likely Letter mean, you ask?

Some of our students have begun receiving what is known in college admissions parlance as Likely Letters. A Likely Letter usually starts with a big congratulations. And why? Because what the college admissions office is articulating to the applicant is that, based on their review of the applicant’s impressive file, they will likely be offered admission. So to all students who’ve already received Likely Letters from highly selective colleges or who will receive Likely Letters in the coming days and weeks, congratulations indeed.

When parents and students read these Likely Letters, the most common question they ask us is: “Does this mean I’m probably going to get in?” As our students and parents know that we’re all about under-promising and over-delivering at Ivy Coach, they’re quite often surprised to hear us reply, “No. It means you’re getting in. In fact, it means you were among the strongest applicants to that school this Regular Decision cycle.” Yes indeed — what a Likely Letters means is…you’re in.

Think about it. Why would a college write you a letter expressing how it’s likely you’ll get in? Here’s your answer: Because unlike in the Early round in which you either made a binding Early Decision commitment to one school or chose one above all others to apply Early Action to, the Regular Decision round pits colleges against one another. They’re competing to land you as a student on their campus. They’re competing to increase their yield, to secure the best possible class among the students who applied to the university. They don’t want you going anywhere else. They want you!

Letting you know weeks ahead of time that you’re going to be getting in is a really nice gesture that takes the pressure off. They want you to wrap your head around going to this university. They’re counting on the primacy effect of social psychology — there is indeed a psychological advantage to letting you know first since you’ll start imagining yourself at this school well before you hear from other universities. You’ll start picturing yourself making friends there, studying in the libraries, dining in the dining halls. You get the idea.

Have a question about Likely Letters? Let us know your question by posting it below! And congratulations to all students who have started receiving Likely Letters! Know that you were among the strongest applicants to the university that conveyed to you it’s likely you’ll get in. And by likely, yes, they mean you’re in. Unless of course your grades drop significantly, you misbehave, etc. So stay out of trouble and keep those grades up!

Congrats to Our Ivy Coach Students

Ivy Coach Students, Likely Letters, Likely Letters and Admission

Congratulations to our students at Ivy Coach who have received Likely Letters to some of America’s most prestigious universities (photo credit: Ad Meskens).

We wish to extend our heartfelt congratulations to our students at Ivy Coach who’ve been receiving Likely Letters from highly selective colleges over the last couple of days and weeks. Many of our students don’t know what Likely Letters mean so they call us up and they say something like this: “I got this letter from Brown and it says ‘The Board of Admission recently completed its review of your application for admission to Brown’s Class of 2020. I am delighted to inform you that in recognition of your outstanding performance and potential – both inside and beyond the classroom – the members of the Board have voted to confer on you a ‘likely’ status.'”

So what does that mean? That means, as we tell our students, that they will be earning admission to Brown. This, after all, is Brown’s way of trying to persuade the student to matriculate to the school. They’re believers in the primacy effect of social psychology — tell the strongest applicants as early as possible they’ll be getting in so they end up wanting to go to Brown over other highly selective colleges. It makes logical sense if you think about it.

Sometimes the first time we ever hear a student curse is when they find out they got into their dream school. We always think that’s funny.

And so cut back to when our students excitedly call up and ask us, “What does this mean? What does it mean?” We tell them, “It means you’re getting in. It means you were among the strongest applicants in the Regular Decision round. It means Brown wants you.” Cut to their reactions and one reaction of a student some days ago in particular: “You’re f*#*#%g joking me.” No we’re not, we most certainly are not. It’s especially fun to hear reactions such as these because our students so rarely curse! But there’s no time like when they learn they’re earning admission to their dream schools as it’s a moment they’ll never forget.

Likely Letters Coming In

Likely Letters, Likely Admission Letters, Likely Letters from Colleges

Likely Letters are starting to come in! Congratulations to our students who have received Likely Letters!

Likely Letters are coming in. Congratulations to our students at Ivy Coach who have been receiving Likely Letters to Ivy League and other highly selective colleges (and who email us…”what does this mean?!”! For those not familiar with Likely Letters, the are emails from colleges to students who stand out as particularly strong in the applicant pool. Since students don’t make binding commitments to attend schools when they apply in the Regular Decision round, Likely Letters are a way to do a solid for the students they want most. But it’s not completely altruistic on the part of colleges. Not even close.

The primacy effect of social psychology teaches us that people tend to remember that which they see first. The recency effect of social psychology teaches us that people tend to also remember that which they see last. People tend to forget much of what happens in between. So this is a college’s way of priming students. They want these students who stand out in their applicant pools to choose them, to love them, to paraphrase “Grey’s Anatomy.” Hey, a Dartmouth alumna created “Grey’s Anatomy.” Shonda Rhimes. We’ve always got an Ivy League tie-in for our readers. Obviously.

Congratulations to our Ivy Coach students who’ve been receiving Likely Letters from some of America’s most highly selective colleges!

If you’re wondering if your Likely Letter means you’re getting in, it sure does. So congratulations! Now don’t let your grades slip and don’t get into trouble. But if you keep your grades up and stay out of mischief (this really does happen — colleges do indeed rescind offers later on), you should have one big smile on right now. Because a Likely Letter might as well be an offer of admission. One is coming. At least one.

Likely Letters from Admissions

Likely Letters, Admission Likely Letters, Likely Letters from Ivy League Schools

Ivy Coach is referenced today on the pages of “The Daily Pennsylvanian,” the newspaper of the University of Pennsylvania.

Brian, the Director of Ivy Coach, is quoted today on the pages of “The Daily Pennsylvanian,” the newspaper of the University of Pennsylvania. In a piece by Caroline Simon entitled “Likely letters aim to recruit top applicants,” Brian discusses the kinds of students most likely to receive likely letters. If you’re not familiar with likely letters, many colleges send out likely letters in February and early March to let students know that they will ‘likely’ be admitted. To clarify, if you get a likely letter, you’re in. Don’t get arrested. Don’t let your grades drop significantly. Don’t do anything crazy. And you’re in. It’s a college’s way of making like Meredith Grey of “Grey’s Anatomy” and saying “Pick me. Choose me. Love me.” Yes, we quoted “Grey’s Anatomy.” Get over it.

As quoted in “The Daily Pennsylvanian,” “‘They’re colleges basically showing their insecurity,’ Brian Taylor, director of Ivy Coach, a New York-based college consulting firm, said. ‘They want to get these students to attend their college over every other college because these students have options.’ Taylor believes that reaching out to applicants early is a very effective way to attract their attention. ‘When you hear from Penn very early that they love you, that’s very powerful,’ he said. Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said that the purpose of likely letters is to initiate early communication with some of the most desirable prospective students. ‘We’re going to get a start on some students who are going to have a number of options,’ he said. Taylor added that likely letter recipients tend to have special qualities that will enhance the reputation of their chosen college, such as top-ranked athletic abilities or Intel Science Fair awards. These applicants are ‘the kids who they can brag about,’ Taylor said. ‘Those are the kids who get the likely letters, the kids who are exceptional.'”

Dean Furda has a reputation for being quite a colorful character. At Ivy Coach, and much like “USA,” we’re all about colorful characters…although this television network has since changed its ‘Characters Welcome’ tagline. Eric Furda is a dean of admissions who is always open and honest about the admissions process and that is something we applaud.

Have a question on likely letters? Let us know your questions by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you.

Receiving Likely Letters

Getting Likely Letters, Likely Letters, Ivy League Likely Letters

Our students have been receiving likely letters (photo credit: Gavin Huang).

Some students might be receiving likely letters from highly selective colleges around now. Now remember, plenty of students gain admission to Ivy League and other highly selective colleges without receiving likely letters so don’t stress out if you haven’t gotten one just yet. If, however, you have received a likely letter, it likely reads something like this:

Dear Eli,

Greetings from Dartmouth! It’s a pleasure to contact you to share some encouraging news.

We have reviewed your application for admission and think you are an outstanding prospect for Dartmouth. In fact, I recently read your file and was exceedingly impressed with your academic accomplishments and intellectual potential.

There is no question that when we make our final decisions at the end of March, you will be offered admission to Dartmouth. We hope you will strongly consider joining the Class of 2018 next fall.

I hope this letter will put your mind at ease, as the college application process can be a long and arduous one. If you have any questions about life at Dartmouth, both in and out of the classroom, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Feel free to send me an email – maria.laskaris@dartmouth.edu – or give me a call at 603.646.2604. I’d be glad to connect you with current students and faculty to help you learn more about our academic programs, extracurricular opportunities, and life as a student.

Best wishes for a productive and enjoyable remainder of your high school experience and I hope to meet you soon.


Maria Laskaris

Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid

Note the “there is no question that when we make our final decisions…” Dartmouth wants to make sure that Eli chooses to matriculate to Dartmouth. Have a question on receiving likely letters? Post a Comment below and we’ll be sure to answer it for you!

Yale Likely Letters

There was a nice piece on Yale likely letters in “The Yale Daily News” yesterday. In an article entitled “‘Likely letters’ part of Yale admit strategy” written by Kimberly Chow, it’s discussed how instrumental likely letters are in the admissions process at Yale. While the Ivy League universities can’t notify Regular Decision admits of their admissions decisions until the spring, likely letters are a great way to get around this stipulation. Likely letters, if you’re not familiar with them, are notes from the admissions office that tell students essentially that their admission is imminent. In the case of one student described in the article, Rui Bao, she not only got a likely letter but she also received a call from her Yale alumni interviewer, a Yale admissions officer, and she received a Yale sweatshirt in the mail. Now that’s recruitment! They clearly wanted her.

Yale Letters, Letters from Yale, Likely Letters

Yale is well known for sending out likely letters to students they want very much to attend their institution.

So why does Yale send out likely letters, you ask? The answer is that they want to win these students over. They don’t want students like Rui Bao going to Harvard or Stanford. They want Rui going to Yale and by letting her know before other schools that they intend to admit her, she can start thinking about going to Yale and envisioning herself as a Bulldog. From a psychological standpoint, it’s quite smart. According to the piece in “The Yale Daily News,” “[Jeffrey] Brenzel, [Yale’s Dean of Admissions], said the fundamental reason that the Yale admissions office sends likely letters is that students admitted under regular decision have just a month to make their decisions, during which time they may be considering many other offers. Students admitted under early action, on the other hand, have months to learn more about Yale and imagine themselves on campus before they hear back from any other schools.” Makes good sense, right?

What do you think about Yale likely letters? Do you think it’s unfair that some students receive likely letters while others have to wait it out? Do you think that more and more universities throughout the country will be sending out likely letters in the future? Let us know your thoughts on the matter by posting below!

College Admissions and Likely Letters

Admissions Likely Letters, Likely Letters in College Admission, Ivy League Likely Letters

In college admissions, a small percentage of applicants at many colleges across the country receive likely letters, early notification that they will in all likelihood be admitted (photo credit: Bryan Y.W. Shin).

For a small percentage of applicants every college admissions cycle, receiving what is termed a “likely letter” can be a welcome surprise. What is a likely letter? It’s a letter that certain colleges send out in February indicating that the candidate will in all likelihood be admitted. It’s a way of tipping off the applicant early on so they don’t have to wait until the end of March or April.

Who gets likely letters? Not just any candidate. Likely letters are typically reserved for the very top of the admitted students, those students who the admissions office very much wants to be a part of the incoming class. Maybe it’s a coveted shortstop for the baseball team or an African American candidate with top academic credentials. Maybe it’s the student who somehow managed to publish a paper in “Cell.” That would be extremely rare!

It should be noted that not all colleges send out likely letters. But many do. And the system the colleges have in place to determine who will receive a likely letter is different at most universities. Typically, the colleges use a ranking system and for those applicants who land at the top of the ranking, they’ll receive likely letters before the end of February. And if you receive a likely letter, it means you will indeed be accepted…so long as your grades and behavior remain consistent from when you applied!

Check out our newsletter on likely letters as well as a previous blog on early notification admissions letters.

Penn Admissions

Penn Admission, Admission to Penn, Admission to UPenn

Penn is one of many highly selective universities that sends out likely letters.

On March 4th, students who applied to the University of Pennsylvania and stood out as exceptional in the pack of applicants received an e-mail communication from the University of Pennsylvania’s Dean of Admissions Eric Furda with a link to a site featuring a video.

Said Furda in the video, “You’re among a small group of students who are designated as likely candidates, meaning that on March 30 you’re going to be admitted to the University of Pennsylvania.” It marked the first time the university had informed applicants of their “likely” status by a video. Some applicants to Penn were skeptical of the link’s authenticity but Furda soon posted a note on a college admissions forum that the video was indeed authentic.

This video tipping off applicants to Penn of their “likely to be admitted” status continues the trend of Ivy League schools informing applicants early that they stand a good chance of admission. It is the hope of the Ivy League colleges and other competitive universities to use these notifications as a way to lure the students to matriculate to the college and steer them away from the competition.

See the video here.

Check out our related blogs – Likely Letters, and Early Notification, Likely Letters, Merit Money, Long Waitlists: All This for The Most Competitive Class in History?

Likely Letters

Likely Letters of Admission, Columbia Likely Letters, University Likely Letters

Columbia sends out what are known as “likely letters.”

If you get a letter from a college that reads something like this and you’re not sure what this letter is, you’ve just received what is known as a “Likely Letter.”

Dear Tali,

I am writing to inform you that your application to Columbia University has been carefully evaluated and that you have earned designation as a likely candidate for admission to Columbia College. As long as our midyear review finds that you are maintaining your current level of academic progress and good standing, you can expect to receive favorable word when admissions packets are mailed on March 30th.

The Committee on Admissions was deeply impressed with your scholastic and personal achievements, and we look forward to all you might add to our rich campus community. I offer you my sincere congratulations on your accomplishments thus far and eagerly anticipate those that lie ahead.

If we can be of any help to you, please do not hesitate to contact the Admissions Office at ugrad-ask@columbia.edu or 212-854-2522. Please save these dates for Columbia College Days on Campus for admitted students: April 10th and 11th or April 17th and 18th, when events will include a hosted overnight visit, a chance to sit in on classes, tours of New York City and much more. I hope you can join us.

All of us here wish you the best during the exciting months ahead.

Sincerely yours,

Jessica Marinaccio

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions

Likely letters are a way for colleges to let you know that they want you, that barring a major drop in your senior year grades, you will in all likelihood be admitted. In the Ivy League, in particular, where athletic scholarships are not offered, it is quite common for recruited athletes to receive likely letters between October 1st and March 15th.

Why do they do this?  Because, as Cheap Trick’s lyrics go, the colleges want you to want them. In order to facilitate that, they’re giving you this heads up. It’ll allow you to take a deep breath, to enjoy your senior year of high school (even though you must keep up your grades or risk the likely letter turning into a letter of rejection).

The Ivy League colleges are particularly motivated to send these letters out to their sought after athletes because other Division I schools that are not in the Ivy League can often essentially grant admission to recruited athletes whereas in the Ivy League, every student is admitted through the Office of Admissions. Each team has a certain amount of slots and each team carries a certain amount of weight. A point guard from Oaks Christian Academy who can help revitalize a basement dweller basketball program at Brown has a stronger chance of admission than a :49 second 100-yard freestyler because basketball takes precedence over swimming. Basketball is a revenue generated sport, swimming isn’t.

When Harvard and Princeton eliminated their early admission programs four years ago, this proved another setback for coaches at these universities hoping to secure the best possible talent for their respective teams. Said Harvard women’s volleyball coach Jennifer Weiss, “Now that we don’t have our early action program, it’s very important to have likely letters. We’re still competing against schools that [do]. People are making decisions early. They can’t hold out a decision from Harvard until April.”

Should you receive a Likely Letter, know that you are under no obligation to attend that college just as they are under no obligation to admit you. In fact, in the Ivy League, colleges are not permitted to ask for a commitment when they send you a likely letter. Admissions offices will not even inquire if you plan to attend when they send out a Likely Letter. Does that mean a coach won’t call and ask you if you intend to matriculate? It doesn’t. Coaches are human. They want to help their team and secure the best possible class of recruits. So yes, they will ask, but you don’t have to answer in the affirmative.

Read a related blog on Early Notification, Likely Letters, Merit Money, Long Waitlists: All This for The Most Competitive Class in History.