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What a college 'likely' letter means for an applicant

Some colleges will send a likely letter before

Some colleges will send a likely letter before official admission to an applicant who far exceeds the school's admissions profile. Photo Credit: iStock

Q. What is a "likely letter" from a college? What does it mean if my high school senior gets one?

A. Some colleges will send a likely letter before official admission to an applicant who far exceeds the school's admissions profile, says Chris Perlongo, associate director of admissions at Fordham University, with campuses in Manhattan and the Bronx.

Fordham, for instance, officially lets candidates know whether they've been accepted on a specific day in mid-March. However, the admissions officers want to give very strong candidates a heads-up as early as possible so they keep the school high on their list of prospective choices, Perlongo says. It gives kids more time to visit the school before the May 1 decision deadline and alleviates their anxiety, he says.

A likely letter might say, "You can expect great news coming your way." It's not an official admission, but a student would have to do something detrimental before admission day to be rejected. "It would be creating false expectations to tell a student, 'We're likely to admit you,' and then not admit them," Perlongo says.

Likely letters originated with athletes wooed by schools, and spread to academic candidates. Some call it a "wink" letter.

If your child doesn't get one, but a friend does for the same school, don't despair. First, they may go out in waves. Second, only a small percentage of applicants get them, far fewer than the number who ultimately are accepted, Perlongo says.

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