Harvard College will send out approximately 300 “likely letters”—the same number that it offered last year—to applicants by the end of this year’s admissions cycle, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 told The Crimson in an interview last week.
notices are typically sent to athletes and other exceptional candidates
to inform them of their expected admissions in the spring, according to
In past application cycles, the College has mailed
about 200 letters to athletes and about 100 letters to other students
with outstanding non-athletic attributes. Fitzsimmons said he expects
these numbers to remain the same this cycle.
“It’s a hard thing to
do, trying to determine who will be admitted and who won’t,” said
Fitzsimmons, explaining why so few letters are typically offered.
likely letters have been a longtime fixture of the admissions process
at Ivy League universities, they have gained a special importance at
Harvard because the College does not have an early admissions program
that would otherwise guarantee acceptance earlier in the process,
Gay S. Pepper, an independent college counselor in Conn.,
said likely letters for non-athletes allow colleges to jump-start the
process of wooing applicants they would especially like to see enroll.
all kind of a dance .... The colleges want to send a letter of
encouragement to the kids they really want,” Pepper said. “It’s a new
way of communicating—a way to increase yield.”
The likely letter plays a critical role in athletic recruitment efforts, said Harvard women’s volleyball coach Jennifer Weiss.
that we don’t have our early action program, it’s very important to
have likely letters,” she said. “We’re still competing against schools
The College sends out letters from Oct. 1 through
March 15, and Weiss encourages the high school athletes she is
recruiting to complete their applications by October in order that they
might hear back from the admissions office earlier. While coaches can
express their interest to a particular student, they have to be careful
to only support candidates with realistic chances of admission, Weiss
Fitzsimmons said that the admissions office confers with
coaches, but the application still must go through the regular reading
“We have influence, but admissions has the final say,”
Weiss said. “Your pool of candidates gets so small so quickly because of
Recruited athletes who receive a likely letter are expected to accept a formal offer of admission in the spring, Weiss said.
said that while the process for recruited athletes is more
straightforward, it is less clear why certain non-athletes receive a
“The colleges hold the cards and they’re not going to tell you what they do and don’t do,” Pepper said.
Harris, a senior at Carver High in Atlanta, received a likely letter
from Harvard last Friday. According to Harris, the letter congratulated
him and said that the admissions office sent the letter because they
thought he would be a good match.
“I didn’t know what to do. I
just sat there thinking any minute now I’ll wake up .... I’m still
trying to take it all in,” he said.