Many graduating high school students boost their chances of getting accepted into their dream colleges by means of demonstrated interest. Not a lot of college-bound teens are aware that many academic institutions also demonstrate their interest in some of the top applicants.
In general, colleges and universities show their interest in applicants by sending them either likely letters or early writes. Some schools include the name of students on the priority waitlist. Then there are also institutions that offer top applicants competitive merit-based scholarships.
If a school wants you badly on its campus, it will surely let you know.
Below, we will talk about the different ways colleges and universities show their interest in applicants. You will have a much better idea of whether or not you are the dream student of your dream school by the time you reach the end of this article, so make sure that you don’t stop reading now!
College Sends Likely Letter
An acceptance letter and a denial letter — graduating high school students can receive any of these letters after the colleges and universities they applied to have made their decisions.
Sometimes, a deferral letter may be sent their way, too, if they apply via an early admission plan.
But there’s another kind of letter from an academic institution that you may receive. What’s more, you may get it earlier than an acceptance, denial or deferral letter. It’s what’s referred to as a likely letter. For most recipients, a likely letter brings good news. Well, half good news.
As the name suggests, a likely letter is a letter bearing the fact that it’s likely that you will get accepted into the school that has just sent it. You can think of it as a token of a 50/50 chance of admission.
Check out the answer to this question if you are wondering about the likelihood of you getting a likely letter…
What are Your Chances of Getting a Likely Letter?
About one out of every six students in the Regular Decision applicant pool receive a likely letter. So, in other words, the chances of a student getting a likely letter from an academic institution are less than 20% only. In addition, not all colleges and universities send out likely letters.
Fret not if the slated arrival of admissions decision letters are near and still you haven’t received a likely letter from the school at the top of your college list. That’s because it means that you are just a part of the majority.
Not everyone gets a likely letter, including those who are set to receive a formal acceptance letter.
Similarly, not all institutions send out likely letters to applicants they are considering to admit. This is especially true for those with rolling admissions — what these schools do instead is that they immediately send acceptance letters to accepted students. It’s exactly because of this why it’s so unlikely for state or public colleges to send likely letters.
Meanwhile, some institutions are known for sending out likely letters. Leading the list are the Ivy Leagues. They use likely letters to win the hearts of applicants who would make for wonderful additions to their campuses. Many elite institutions and top liberal arts schools are very much likely to send likely letters, too.
The following is a list of some US colleges and universities that send likely letters:
- Amherst College
- Barnard College
- Brandeis University
- Brown University
- Bowdoin College
- Clark University
- Columbia University
- Cornell University
- Dartmouth College
- Duke University
- Grinnell College
- Harvard University
- Princeton University
- Rice University
- Smith College
- Stanford University
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- University of Pennsylvania
- University of Virginia
- William & Mary
- Williams College
- Yale University
Why Do Colleges Send Out Likely Letters
There are a couple of reasons why some colleges and universities send likely letters. First, to keep top applicants excited and interested. Second, to keep the yield rate up. Prestigious academic institutions can enhance their student body and improve their yield rate by means of likely letters.
Graduating high school students compete against one another for a spot at some of the nation’s best schools. Similarly, top schools compete against each other for some of the best minds in the land.
It’s due to this why these institutions tend to send likely letters.
Through this, not only can they woo applicants they are likely to admit but also help improve the yield rate. Simply put, the yield rate is the percentage of students who enroll after getting an offer. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the yield rate, the more desirable the school is to college-bound teens and their parents.
By the way, likely letters usually arrive in February. However, some of them may arrive as early as December. Some likely letters may arrive as late as March.
Interested Colleges Send Early Write Letters
Besides a likely letter, there is another type of letter that may come your way if a college is interested in you becoming a part of its student body. It’s called an early write.
An early write, like a likely letter, is sent by an institution earlier than regular admissions decisions.
However, there are a few differences between these two forms of letters colleges commonly send to applicants they are interested in. But one thing’s for sure: if you’re looking forward to hearing back from your dream school, you’d prefer to get an early write from its admissions office instead of a likely letter.
Early Write vs. Likely Letter: What’s the Difference?
A likely letter is an indication that an institution is likely to admit a student. On the other hand, an early write is an indication that the college is going to admit a student. Unless the school rescinds the offer, an early write’s recipient can be 100% certain that he or she is already accepted.
While both early write and likely letters are great news, the former is greater news for any applicant.
Getting an early write from an academic institution is just like getting a much-awaited acceptance letter ahead of others in the Regular Decision applicant pool who have gotten a thumbs-up from the admissions officers.
So, in other words, there is no need to wait for an actual acceptance letter to arrive before you decide whether to attend the school or not. That’s because an early write is some sort of early acceptance letter. Still, the college will send you a formal acceptance letter after some time — it’s just like getting a confirmation of your acceptance twice!
But even with an early write in your possession, you cannot be certain that you are an official student of the school unless you are already enrolled and on your way to your very first class.
Keep in mind that the college may rescind its offer via an early write for various reasons, such as:
- Low or failing senior year grades
- Falsified information or plagiarism on application
- Disciplinary issues such as a suspension or involvement in a crime
- Putting down deposits at multiple colleges
Needless to say, it’s still a must that you keep your grades and image in tip-top shape even after getting an early write from a college. And this brings us to this pressing question many college-bound kids are too embarrassed to ask…
What Can You Do If an Offer is Revoked?
A student whose offer to attend a college is rescinded may ask the admissions office if transferring to the school the following year is possible. He or she may also take a gap year, as many institutions consider gap year students more college-ready. Going to another college is always an option.
Getting an offer, whether in the form of an early write or a formal acceptance letter, revoked isn’t the end of the world. This is especially true if you have high chances of getting accepted at other colleges.
The main point is that even if an early write guarantees an acceptance, it’s not final.
Universities Add Applicants to Priority Waitlist
Earlier, we mentioned that a college application could lead to three things: acceptance, denial and deferral. An acceptance letter is better than a rejection and deferral letter. While a deferral letter is not as good as an acceptance letter, it is certainly better than a letter that downright rejects you.
Being deferred means that your application will be evaluated again during the Regular Decision round. Needless to say, only those who apply Early Decision or via any other early admission plan tend to get a deferral letter.
A deferral letter, like a college application, could result in:
- An acceptance
- A denial
- A waitlist position
Speaking of being waitlisted, not all applicants whose names are placed on the waitlist are the same. Some of them are willing to commit to the school if accepted. They are the ones that are included on the priority waitlist. As the name suggests, these applicants are more likely to be invited by a college to attend than the rest.
Keeping the yield rate high — as discussed above while we were talking about the reasons why institutions send out likely letters, is good for colleges. Well, it’s also for the same reason why they have a priority waitlist.
Admissions officers like the thought that the students they will call upon will enroll.
In most instances, the admissions office will get in touch with waitlisted applicants and ask them if they would like to be on the priority waitlist. This is to ensure that they will attend the school in case there are still available slots. So, in other words, the priority waitlist is typically on an invitation basis.
One example of an institution that invites applicants to join the priority waitlist is Carnegie Mellon University.
Besides waiting for a college to give you a ring to ask whether or not you would be willing to be put on the priority list, you may also do the first move. Needless to say, you may communicate with the institution and inquire if it ranks waitlisted students. If so, politely ask what it would take to be on the priority waitlist.
But just because your name is added to the priority waitlist doesn’t mean that admission is next. This is why the answer to this critical question should be known by all during the college applications season…
What are the Chances of Waitlisted Applicants Getting Accepted?
According to a 2019 survey by the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), up to 20% of students on the waitlist of participating colleges were accepted. US News, on the other hand, revealed that 32% of waitlisted students were admitted into national universities ranked in 2019.
Different colleges and universities accept different numbers of students on the waitlist. Some of them accept a lot, while some of them accept very few. As a matter of fact, there are also those that accept none at all.
Some academic institutions rank waitlisted students. A few examples of those who certainly do are:
|Bryant University||Smithfield, Rhode Island|
|Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo||San Luis Obispo, California|
|Drexel University||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|Gonzaga University||Spokane, Washington|
|Hampshire College||Amherst, Massachusetts|
|Messiah College||Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania|
|Rollins College||Winter Park, Florida|
|San Diego State University||San Diego, California|
|Soka University of America||Aliso Viejo, California|
Your chances of ending up receiving an acceptance letter from the college after being put on the waitlist are higher if you are one of the priority students. Still, it will depend on various factors, such as:
- Number of remaining spots that need to be filled
- Majors or schools the college wants to represent in its freshman group
- Strength of the overall application
- Ranking on the waitlist
Colleges Offer Merit Scholarships to Best Students
Based on a USA Today survey consisting of over 40,000 participating high school students, 45% said that cost is the top factor when it comes to choosing a college to attend.
And just in case you are curious as to which other factors were considered by many:
- Major offered – 21%
- Location and size – 18%
- Reputation – 16%
Institutions for higher education are well-aware of the fact that the cost of attendance is the most important decisive factor in the college selection process. And this is exactly the reason why one of the things they do to entice top applicants to attend them instead of the competition is offering merit-based scholarships.
There are different types of scholarships colleges and universities offer. Many of them require students to apply in order to be considered. Merit-based scholarship is one of those that do not require any application.
So, in other words, a student’s college application alone can reveal whether he or she is eligible for it.
What’s really nice about merit-based scholarships is that, contrary to popular belief, it’s not only for straight-A students or students from low-income backgrounds. No matter the academic profile or financial situation, students can win a merit-based scholarship for as long as they are able to demonstrate phenomenal ability in one or more areas.
Since many types of students can be eligible for a merit-based scholarship, there are different kinds of it. And this brings us to this important question that requires an answer…
How Many Types of Merit-Based Scholarships are There?
The purpose of merit-based scholarships is to reward talent and hard work, which is why there are various types of them. They include academic performance, athletics, artistic talent, leadership ability, community spirit, and special interests. Merit-based scholarships can come from various entities.
Funding for merit-based scholarships can come from different sources. Some of them are:
- Non-profit organizations
- Religious organizations
- Community groups
Speaking of which, some colleges entice top applicants to attend them with merit-based scholarships.
After all, being some of the best college-bound high schoolers in the country, their applications are typically enough to make them eligible for merit awards. Needless to say, if an institution gets in touch with you asking if you would like to grab the opportunity to complete a program at a discounted rate, it’s likely to be interested in you.
It’s also not uncommon for some public colleges and universities to provide more merit-based scholarships to out-of-state students than in-state students, although in-state students enjoy considerably lower tuition and fees. This is to draw applicants residing in other states toward them, thus allowing them to enjoy a more diverse student body.
One of the top athletes at your high school?
Suppose a college is offering you an athletic scholarship, which is a form of merit-based scholarship, and its coach is also giving you his or her personal contact details and/or asking you to complete a recruiting questionnaire. In that case, it’s safe to assume that an acceptance letter is about to go your way anytime soon.
But keep in mind that Ivy League schools and many other prestigious institutions do not offer merit-based scholarships. So, if an elite college is interested in you, it will surely use another method to woo you.
Just Before You Assume a College Wants You
Each graduating high school student has a dream college or university.
Similarly, each institution for higher education has a dream student. Many colleges show their interest in their top applicants by sending likely letters or early writes. Others put applicants on the priority waitlist. And then there are those that offer merit-based scholarships outright.
No matter the case, having a college interested in you means that your application is a standout.
And if your application is one of a kind, it’s not unlikely for many schools to reach out to you and make you feel that they want you — the ones on your college list have you on their must-have list.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.