The Meaning of Likely Letters

Likely Letters, Likely Letter, Meaning of Likely Letter
Many elite universities send out Likely Letters (photo credit: Ad Meskens).

Did your child recently receive a Likely Letter? Are you wondering about the meaning of a Likely Letter? Well, wonder no more. A Likely Letter is the dating equivalent of a date writing you soon after your meetup, “I’d like to see you again.” Of course, most aren’t so straightforward in dating these days, but you get the idea. A Likely Letter reflects a college’s strong interest in the applicant matriculating. A Likely Letter also reflects a measure of insecurity since the school isn’t certain the student will ultimately choose to attend. Unlike if a student applies Early Decision and thereby makes a binding commitment to attend the school if granted admission, applicants have options in the Regular Decision round.

Likely Letters Are Intended to Improve Yield

If a student receives a Likely Letter — as so many of our students at Ivy Coach have received over the years — it means the student is one of the strongest applicants in the Regular Decision round. It means the college wanted to get the jump on other schools by offering admission first. Doing so buys the college some goodwill in the student’s eyes. Colleges, after all, are familiar with the primacy effect of social psychology. People tend to like what they wrap their heads around first (or last as in the Recency Effect). That which happens in the middle quite often gets forgotten. If Columbia sends a student a Likely Letter, that student can start picturing herself at Columbia, eating pizza outside Low Memorial Library. And come the time that Brown sends that same student an offer of admission, she’ll already have her heart set on Columbia: if Columbia’s strategy proves successful.

Likely Letters Mean You Got In!

So if you recently received a Likely Letter from a highly selective college, congratulations! It means that you were one of the strongest applicants in their pool. And, yes, a Likely Letter means you will be earning admission to the school that sent you the note. Our students at Ivy Coach so often ask us this question and we delight in telling them three simple words: you got in! In fact, it’s even better than getting in because it means their application was among the strongest the school received…so it bodes well for the other schools to which they applied in Regular Decision as well.


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