What a Likely Letter Means

on June 13, 2017

Some students receive noncommittal letters in the mail known as a likely letters from colleges. Although likely letters are positive, they often leave their recipients confused and unsure how to interpret what a college means. Below, we’ve broken down exactly what these letters are and their purpose.


What do They Look Like?


Every college that sends likely letters uses a slightly different form. These letters can be specific, with a line or two indicating that the student is likely admitted and is more or less guaranteed a spot in the coming year. Some of these letters are more vague, though, perhaps including an invitation to an on-campus event or a recommendation that the student apply to a specific program. Whatever the case, it will be obvious that the college singled you out among applicants in an effort to sway you in their direction.


What do They Mean?


Likely letters are meant to be encouraging: They’re a college or university’s way of letting you know that you’re in without officially declaring it, thus establishing themselves as contenders earlier on in your decision-making process. By flattering you, that college is hoping that you'll consider becoming a part of their incoming freshman class. For students who didn't apply early decision or early action, these letters represent a preemptive yes while acknowledging that the applicant did not expressly apply to that college as their top choice.


Who Receives Them?


These letters often go to two types of applicants. In the first case, they’re a nonbinding, unofficial invitation for student athletes who are being recruited by college. Although colleges can’t accept these recruits early, coaches usually inform admissions offices of their preferred recruits, after which officers can choose to send likely letters. In the second case, a likely letter might mean that you were one of the strongest applicants in the pool of applications that they've read so far; the letter serves as an affirmative nod that you'll later receive an official acceptance letter to the university.


What if You Don’t Receive One?


The vast majority of admitted applicants will not receive a likely letter. For example, many colleges don't send likely letters and some might take longer to read your application. Additionally, colleges can choose to not send likely letters to applicants admitted earlier on in the process.

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