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Articles / Applying to College / What’s A Likely Letter?

What’s A Likely Letter?

Elena Loveland
Written by Elena Loveland | Jan. 17, 2019
What’s A Likely Letter?
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Have you ever heard of a "likely letter?" Well, it is exactly what it sounds like. In college admissions, if you receive a “likely letter," it is the college communicating to you that although official admission decisions have not yet been announced, you can rest assured that you will be accepted into the freshman class.

Consider It A Nice Surprise


Likely letters are not sent to many students, and they are usually sent by top-tier institutions, so don't be disappointed if you don't get one — the vast majority of students, even students with the best grades, will never receive one.

“Likely letters are few and far between. They are provided to very few students from very few schools," says Mandee Heller Adler, founder and president of International College Counselors based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

But if you do get a “likely letter," it is a nice surprise.

“Likely letters are kind of a new phenomenon, and basically it's schools that are trying to woo you in that regular decision round because they've got their Early Action, their Early Decisions, and they know what that is; now, they want to fill the rest of the class with the top students that are available in that applicant pool," explains Nagla Orlando, a retired high school educator and founder of Knowledge Worx 4 College in San Luis Obispo County, Calif. “They send out a likely letter, and basically if you're getting a likely letter, you're getting in. That's the bottom line."

A likely letter is actually a marketing tool by colleges to attract the best students, according to Adler.

“It's for whomever they deem the best in their applicant pool for whatever reason. Whether they're trying to recruit an athlete or a very top academic student...the student just always feels so good about it, and it's just a really wonderful occurrence when it happens."

If you receive a likely letter and you haven't received any ED or EA acceptances, "your mindset's going to change on how you approach the rest of the process," explains Orlando. “Even if you get a full scholarship elsewhere you may say, 'Well, they wanted me first. They sent me this likely letter before Harvard did,' or whichever the schools are."

If you receive a likely letter, it may accelerate discussions with your family about where you will ultimately go to college because you know that this one college is a definite option before you have heard from other colleges in the regular decision process.

Consider These Questions

Orlando says that students to need to think about these questions that arise:

- What are my offers?

- Am I getting money elsewhere?

- Am I not getting money elsewhere?

- Am I willing to go full steam ahead on a school that wants me even though I don't know my other options yet?

- Am I basing decisions based only on prestige and not "fit?"

“Those are discussions that families need to sit down and have," advises Orlando. “The good thing is that when you get a likely letter, you can kind of sit back and relax a little bit. You know you're going to college."

Written by

Elena Loveland

Elena Loveland

Elena Loveland has been a writer and editor covering higher education and college admissions for 18 years and is the author of Creative Colleges: Finding the Best Programs for Aspiring Artists, Designers, Dancers, Musicians, Writers, and More. Creative Colleges has earned recognition in the College Bound Teen, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Gate and U.S. News and World Report's Annual College Guide. Loveland has spoken at the Independent Educational Consultants Association and the University of the Arts, as well as several high schools about college admission for creative students. She has worked for the National Association for College Admission Counseling as editor of the Journal of College Admission and for NAFSA: Association of International Educators as editor-in-chief of International Educator magazine. As an independent journalist, Loveland.s work has appeared in numerous publications such as American Careers, Dance Teacher, Hispanic Outlook on Higher Education, International Educator, Pointe, Teen Vogue, University Business and the U.S. News & World Report's Annual College Guide, among several others. She has a master's degree in English and has been an adjunct instructor at three higher education institutions. Loveland provides private college admissions consulting to families upon request. She lives in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

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