The Likely Letter, it’s the Grail for athletes that are recruited in the Ivy League. It’s a formal, written communication from the admissions office that states that you will be admitted as long as you don’t really screw up. Finally you can relax and stop worrying about how to interpret the vague nuances of coachspeak -you have it in writing.
But there are situations where the recruited athlete is supported, put on the list to admissions but the admissions office does not send the Likely Letter. Are those recruits any less solid than those that get the letter?
Let’s examine a few facts from the Ivy Manual to try and get a handle on this.
The Ivy Manual 2011-2012 contains the following:
As determined by each institution, admissions offices may advise applicants before the common notification date, in writing, of the probability of admission; e.g. likely, possible, unlikely. Such notifications may be made to recruited student athletes
only from October 1 through March 15.
This basically states that admissions departments at Ivy League colleges may choose to send Likely Letters to their recruited athletes. Note that it says “may”, not “must”. Admissions may send the Likely Letters at their discretion.
Another excerpt from the manual
Offices at each Ivy school may offer some athletic and other candidates a “likely” letter, which has the effect of a formal letter of admission provided the candidate continues to have a satisfactory secondary school experience.
Coaches may initiate the requests for these letters, but only the office of admission can issue a “likely” letter.
(The bold is mine)
The Likely Letter is solid. The only things that would get the offer rescinded are the same things that would get a regular admission rescinded.
Here’s one more fact to help shed light on the process, this is from a Harvard Crimson article, June 27, 2003:
At its biannual meeting, the Council of Ivy Group Presidents limited the number of recruited athletes who may matriculate to 1.4 times the number needed to fill the travel squads for the 33 “Ivy Championship” sports.
The minimum Academic Index (AI), a measure of eligibility that incorporates SAT scores and GPA or class rank on a 240-point scale, was also raised from 169 to 171, and a requirement was added that the mean AI of recruited athletes be no more than one standard deviation below the mean of all undergraduates at the particular college
(The AI minimum has been raised to 176 since this article was published)
So we know that each college in the Ivy League is granted a set number of spots for recruited athletes. At a school that fields that full number of Ivy Championship sports this may be around 230 spots per year over a rolling 4 year period. These 230 individuals are used in the Academic Index calculation. Their names are on a list that is submitted by the coach to admissions and their entire application, test scores, essays and recommendations are evaluated by admissions. Before they get on this list, their academics have been pre-screened. The vast majority of recruited athletes that make it to the list are admitted.
The majority of those (I don’t have data on this, just many anecdotes) will receive a Likely Letter from admissions. But there are some sports at some schools that apparently don’t automatically send the Likely Letter to all of their supported recruits. Does that mean the support is any less solid?
My opinion is that a recruited athlete on the list is just as solid whether or not they get the letter in the mail. They are one of the 230 or so recruits that has been identified by admissions. I spoke to one athlete that was recruited and put on the coach’s list. The kid asked about the Likely Letter and the coach basically told him it was an unnecessary formality. The student reiterated that he would feel a lot better about the process if he got the letter and the coach initiated the request. He eventually received his letter.
What’s so important about the Likely Letter?
The original intent of the Likely Letter was to give athletes that were also considering offers from scholarship schools some early indication that they would be admitted and they could forego the National Letter of Intent signing day, secure in the knowledge that their admission was all but assured at an Ivy school.
But even for students with recruiting interest from several Ivy schools, which don’t do the NLI, it’s important to have that written assurance.
You have to wonder what would prevent a school from automatically sending the letter to all of their accepted recruits. The cost of a stamp? The extra time it would take the staff to prepare and mail the letters? Or is it something in the language, (a likely letter) “…has the effect of a formal letter of admission” that makes them reluctant to put it in writing?
As one who has gone through this, I can tell you that the wait until the official notification date is agonizing enough, even with a LL in hand. If you’re waiting for that notification without the letter, trying to recall the specifics of exactly what the coach told you… well, I wouldn’t want to be in that spot.
My advice is to request that the coach initiates a request to admissions for the letter. It doesn’t cost them anything to do it (over and above the stamp and a few minutes of staff time). If they are reluctant to put it in writing, maybe there’s a reason. If an Ivy coach tells you he will be supporting your application, ask for the letter. In the words of Ronald Reagan, trust, but verify.