Harvard University is not known to send out many Likely Letters. For those unfamiliar with Likely Letters (or, in some cases, Likely Phone Calls), it’s a note an applicant receives that indicates the student will, in all likelihood, be earning admission come the time decisions are released. Our translation? The student will, without question, be getting in. In fact, it means the student is among the most coveted applicants of Harvard since the school is going to great lengths to try to encourage the applicant to matriculate. Harvard sends out about 300 Likely Letters a year — about 200 to recruited athletes and 100 to non-recruited athletes. Among non-recruited athletes, the letters typically go to students from underrepresented backgrounds — including and especially students from rural areas (or, as Harvard’s Dean Fitzsimmons has aptly long called them, students from “sparse country”).
As Rahem D. Hamid and Nia L. Orakwue report for The Harvard Crimson in a piece entitled “Who Gets Likely Letters?,” “Athletes aren’t the only ones who might receive the coveted likely letter. Sasha Agarwal ’24-25, an international student from India, received a likely letter that cited her academic, extracurricular, and personal accomplishments…After receiving her formal acceptance, Agarwal received another letter from her regional admissions officer who referenced her nonprofit work in menstrual equity and her supplemental essay on behavioral economics. ‘She also just spoke to how my personal story, behind why I’m passionate about neuroscience, was something that stood out to them,’ she said.”
And why doesn’t Harvard send out more Likely Letters? Because Harvard doesn’t have to woo applicants. After all, it’s Harvard! While many schools worry about their yields each year — the percentage of admitted students who will choose to matriculate — Harvard is very much in its own boat. Overwhelmingly, students admitted to Harvard and other universities will choose to attend Harvard. In fact, in the 30 years in which Ivy Coach has been in business, we have never had a student admitted to Harvard who turned Harvard down — until this year! That’s right. It took a full thirty years for one of our students to turn down Harvard. When that student told us they were saying no to Harvard, we couldn’t believe it either! But Harvard’s loss was Stanford’s gain.
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