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Posted at 9:44 AM ET, 03/22/2010

What’s an admissions ‘likely’ letter?

By Valerie Strauss

Some high school seniors awaiting admissions decisions from colleges get envelopes from the schools only to find language that suggests admittance but doesn’t come out and say it.

Called a “likely letter,” the missive might tell a student flat out that he/she is a “likely” candidate. Others are more coyly written, telling the student of dates for special events on campus only for admitted students and even suggesting that travel arrangements be made.

But it doesn’t say, “Congratulations, you are in,” because it can’t. Schools aren’t supposed to officially accept students early.

These letters are sent weeks or even a month or two before official admissions decisions are made to those candidates the school knows it wants, often recruited athletes but not always.

The schools are essentially trying to stake a claim on a strong candidate before another school does.

Those who get them essentially know they will be accepted if they don't do something exceptionally stupid. For those who don't get them, the letters are apt to cause angst, and that’s unfortunate.

The process of getting into college is tough enough without knowing that the kid sitting next to your child in history got one of these letters but your kid, who is just as strong an applicant, didn’t.

Schools don’t send out many likely letters, and in many cases have not even looked at all the applications before they mail them. So don’t waste a minute worrying if your child didn’t receive one.


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By Valerie Strauss  | March 22, 2010; 9:44 AM ET
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  college admissions  
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I applied for college admission as a member of the class of 2007. I submitted nine applications and at no school was I legacy or an athlete. In early March, I did, in fact, receive a "likely" letter from the University of Virginia. Several weeks later, I received an acceptance letter and scholarship offer. At my high school, a few other students received UVA likely letters before their admission offers, and yet others only received UVA admission letters. I can't speak to whether a correlation exists between likely letters and scholarship offers. But I do think that it's quite flattering to receive extra attention from a university--even if I ultimately chose another school.

I'm not sure if UVA still sends likely letters. I would think that the letters are more common now, as the university has moved away from early decision.

Posted by: DCgalnSeattle | March 22, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

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