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.”