What If I Didn't Get a Likely Letter?

What If I Didn’t Get a Likely Letter?

You’re in that insidious lull between the moment when you finally send out those finished applications and the time when you start obsessively checking your email for decisions. Maybe you’re hearing from people around you that they’ve received likely letters from colleges – or maybe you’ve received one yourself. Likely letters can be ambiguous, anxiety inducing, and rather arbitrary. But they shouldn’t be cause for worry – while getting one is a good sign, not getting one doesn’t mean that your chances at admission are gone.

Historically, likely letters were sent out to athletes being recruited by Ivy Leagues in an attempt to generate interest, to flatter applicants and to persuade them. Because these colleges were all choosing from a small pool of top athletes, coaches would push to admissions the names of favored athletes needed to round out their teams, in hopes that these students would be notified early that they are top applicants. If admissions believed that these students were also strong outside of athletics, they were sent letters suggesting they were likely to be admitted. These letters were meant to entice the applicant to lean towards a particular college because they were being pursued there.

Today, likely letters are sent to applicants both outside of athletics and outside of the Ivy League. A number of competitive colleges are sending likely letters weeks before official admission in order to reel in top applicants who might be getting acceptances from a number of appealing colleges. So what does this mean for you if you haven’t been sent one?

Nothing at all actually. The arbitrary part of likely letters is that because they are sent out in the middle of reviewing applications, some top applicants who deserve likely letters are not sent one because the batch of letters has been mailed before their application is reviewed. There is no way of knowing whether you are one of these people, so there is no need to stress when others around you may be receiving early notification.

And for those of you who do see that wonderful envelope in your mailbox? If you’re in that lucky few, you aren’t required to do anything besides jump up and down at being one of a very small minority of applicants (less than 10% at UVA, for example). Your admission to that school is virtually guaranteed, as long as you do not succumb to that gnawing monster senioritis, or any other negative action that would revoke a regular admission decision.