Columbia Likely Letter: What to Know

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A student reading a letter while sitting.

Columbia Likely Letter: What to Know

When it comes to some of the most impressive and competitive schools in the country, such as Columbia, Princeton, Harvard, and other Ivy League universities, one thing that applying students hope to receive before getting an official acceptance letter is a likely letter.

While it is really important to keep in mind that the majority of students who get into these top-tier schools will likely not receive a likely letter, getting one is a fantastic feeling and a near guarantee that they will end up getting it.

But what is a Columbia likely letter and what does getting a likely letter from Columbia actually mean? At AdmissionSight, our college admissions consultants make it a top priority to give the students that we work with the information and tools that they need to improve their chances of getting into the schools of their dreams.

Understandably so, a lot of the schools that we try to help students get into are the elite of the elite such as one or more of the eight schools that make up the Ivy League or other top-10 schools elsewhere in the United States like Stanford, Caltech or MIT. These schools very often have acceptance rates that are under 5.0 percent, so the fact that 75 percent of the students that we work with end up getting into an Ivy League school or a top-10 school outside of the Ivies is something that we are very proud of!

While we do not teach our students how to make sure that they received a Columbia University likely letter or a likely letter from any of the other top schools they apply to, we can absolutely teach students how to improve their chances of getting into those kinds of schools. Sometimes, getting a likely letter is just a wonderful part of that journey.

So, if you are interested in learning about what it means to get a Columbia likely letter, what to do once you receive one, and how you can improve your chance of getting one (and getting into a school as prestigious as Columbia at all), then you have come to the right place!

Let’s get started on breaking it all down together

What are likely letters?

Before we get into the specifics of Columbia likely letters, we wanted to quickly break down the basic facts when it comes to what likely letters are in general and what role they play in the undergraduate admissions ecosystem.

Essentially, highly selective universities and colleges, such as Columbia will sometimes write what are known as “likely letters” (also sometimes known as “love letters”) to elite applicants who have applied to the school.

These letters are especially popular for students who are being considered to receive merit-based or athletic financial aid such as a scholarship or a full ride. Essentially, these letters are used to give these top tier applicants a “heads up” or sorts that they will likely be admitted to the school before the official decision notifications go out in March and April. The letters are not only used to flatter the applicant, but they are also used to start planning for their enrollment at the school!

Does Columbia send likely letters?

Even though it is known that a large number of the most prestigious schools in the country do send likely letters, it’s always important to learn the specifics when it comes to the schools that you are planning on applying to. This should apply to everything from materials that you need to submit, to things as simple as application deadlines, to whether or not a school sends likely letters to certain applicants.

Though most schools in the United States do not send likely letters to undergraduate applicants, all four of the Ivy League schools – including Columbia – have been known to send out these letters. Other prestigious schools that send likely letters include schools like Stanford, Duke, and the University of Chicago. More often than not, larger state schools – even the more prestigious ones like University of Berkley, University of Michigan and University of Texas, Austin – do not send likely letters.

Female student looking at her computer.

All this is to say that, yes, Columbia has been known to send likely letters. Here is what the school itself has to say about its approach to sending likely letters to students that apply:

“An institution may send a ‘likely’ probabilistic communication letter to a candidate (whether or not the applicant is a recruited athlete) only if the applicant has submitted all of the materials which the institution requires in order to make an admissions decision.”

What does a likely letter typically say?

If you are hoping to one day receive a likely letter from Columbia, chances are pretty good that you are also a bit curious about what the kind of letter will actually say. Overall, these letters are known to be fairly flattering and congratulatory. The reason for this is quite clear!

After all, these elite schools are often competing for the most elite students. If Columbia, for example, wants a student who has also applied to, say, Stanford and Harvard, the Columbia admissions office may want to do all it can to ensure that the student does end up going to Columbia.

If you are curious about what a likely letter may say from Columbia specifically, you are in luck! We’ve done some snooping online and have found what we believe is a genuine example of a likely letter from Columbia.

Take a look at the letter, below:

Dear [Name redacted],

I am delighted to inform you that your application to the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University has been carefully examined and that you have earned designation as a likely candidate for admission. The Committee on Admission was deeply impressed with your scholastic and personal achievements and with your demonstrated interest in the fields of engineering and applied science. We look forward to all you might add to our remarkable campus community.

We are sending you this email – which only a small percentage of our applicants receive – in order to celebrate your accomplishments thus far and to begin introducing you to the many features that make a Columbia education both distinctive and transformative. As long as you continue to maintain your current level of academic progress and good standing, you can expect to receive favorable word when admission packets are mailed on March 28.

Please save April 13-14 for Columbia Engineering Days on Campus, when events for admitted students will include a hosted overnight visit, a chance to attend masterclasses and visit labs, a tour of New York City and much more. In the meantime, I encourage you to explore our Columbia Blue website and to consider the ways you would thrive as a member of our community.

“If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Admissions Office at [email protected] or 212-854-2522. All of you here wish you the best during the exciting months ahead.

Sincerely yours,

Jessica Marinaccio

Keep in mind that your letter, if you are among the lucky few to receive such a letter from Columbia, would be a bit different than this and would be tailored to your specific interests and what school (if any) you applied to be a part of.

One important thing to keep in mind is that for some students, a likely letter is issued for more pragmatic reasons. For students who are perhaps the first in their family to ever pursue a college education, are from a very rural part of the country, or are from a different country, Columbia may send out a likely letter to help give the student additional time to plan and prepare for their eventual enrollment!

Does a likely letter from Columbia guarantee admission?

It is important to know that a likely letter does not in fact guarantee admission at any school, and top schools like Columbia are known to continue to debate the fate of certain students up until the actual admission deadline. Still, receiving a likely letter is about as close a student can get to receiving a letter of acceptance before actually getting the official letter a little later on in the process.

Columbia university library with a statue in the main stairs.

If you do end up receiving a Columbia University likely letter, you simply have to continue doing what you have done up till this point – both inside and outside of school – and you will be well on your way to receiving an official letter of acceptance in the very near future.

Of course, the primary things that any student who receives a likely letter should avoid to make sure they get another positive letter from Harvard soon is keep your grades up, don’t get suspended, and – of course – don’t have any run-ins with the law or an arrest. After all, even official letters of acceptance can be rescinded if a student’s grades drop too low or if the student deals with issues that lead to a suspension from school or an arrest.

How to get a likely letter from Columbia

It is hard for any student, even the most impressive students, to get into a school like Columbia, Harvard or Yale, let alone receive a likely letter from one of these schools. As previously stated, one of the key reasons why certain students receive letters is because the school wants to give the student additional time to prepare for their eventual admission to the school.

The other case in which students receive likely letters is if they are able to really separate themselves from the rest of the pool of applicants to be amongst the several hundred students that Columbia wants most to enroll in the incoming class.

To really understand how hard it is to get a likely letter from Columbia, let’s first quickly break down the most recent acceptance rate statistics at the school. In the 2021-22 application cycle, the most recent application cycle, a total of 60,377 applications were sent to the school. The acceptance rate was an incredibly low 3.73 percent.

A total of 2,253 students received an acceptance letter from Columbia, and the accepted came from all 50 states and 86 total countries from around the world. Of 2,253 students that were accepted, it is likely that around 200 students received a likely letter. If you think the acceptance rate was low, consider the fact that 200 likely letters being sent out of the 60,377 applicants would yield a likely letter sent rate of just .0033 percent. That is absurdly low!

If you are curious about what you can do to improve your chances of being among that incredibly elite group, then here are some things that you should know.

You’ll need a truly impressive academic record

Obviously, getting into Columbia at all requires an incredibly impressive academic record. To get a likely letter and be considered among the elite of the elite within the applicant pool, you are going to basically be academically perfect. You’re going to have an incredible grade point average, a wonderful SAT or ACT score, as well as academic awards at either the school, state, regional or national level.

When it comes to other factors, getting immense praise from your teachers within your recommendations as well as crafting truly impressive personal statements or essays to set yourself apart.

You’ll want to make it clear that you truly love Columbia

Though the number of students that receive a likely letter from Columbia each year is incredibly small, you can be sure that the majority of the students that do get them applied to the school via Early Decision. The reason why is because another factor that seems to contribute to students being able to receive these letters are the ones who express deep love and knowledge for Columbia as a learning institution and as a community.

Just as an elite student wants to feel wanted by a school, these elite schools also love to feel wanted by the students that apply. If you have made it clear that Columbia is really your top choice, the school will feel more inclined to give you a little heads up that you will be getting in by way of a likely letter.

You have unique passion for your extracurricular activities

While Ivy League schools focus first on a student’s academic performance and preparedness when deciding who will get in and who will sadly not get in, another really crucial component is a student’s commitment and achievements outside of the classroom as well. This often comes in the form of a student’s extracurricular activities.

A teacher guiding students during a college activity.

The important thing to keep in mind is that schools are not looking for specific extracurricular activities that students are engaged in. Instead, they are looking for a level of commitment and achievement no matter what the student’s passions are. The reason why this can help a student receive a likely letter is that it shows that students are highly committed to their community and use their leadership abilities to contribute to their communities and give back, achieve great things, and make lasting relationships.

Earn a distinguished sporting record

The final thing to know about receiving likely letters – from Ivy League schools or other top schools outside of the Ivy League – is that accomplished athletes are known to receive them perhaps more than any other kind of student. Even though Ivies and other top schools do not approach student-athletes in the same way that state schools do, such as highly recruiting these kinds of students and offering full-ride scholarships, they still do love to have student-athletes.

If a world-class athlete with a highly impressive academic record, especially if that student plays a sport that the school is well-known for, the chances of receiving a likely letter go up dramatically.

Student athletes playing on the field.

Columbia has a number of sports teams including baseball, basketball, archery, football, golf, rowing, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, and more. If you are an accomplished athlete in a sport that is offered and valued at Columbia and believe that you have the rest of the necessary attributes of a student that is accepted at Columbia, you could absolutely be one of the few students to receive a likely letter.

When Columbia likely letters come out

Per Ivy League regulations, colleges are able to send out likely letters between October 1st and March 15th. Of course, the timing of a likely letter being sent is going to depend entirely on whether a student applies to Columbia via early admissions or regular admissions. And when students do get likely letters, they can feel confident that an official acceptance letter is going to follow close behind.

Get a Columbia likely letter

There is no way to truly guarantee to get a likely letter from a school as selective as Columbia. If you are interested in learning more about the Columbia application process and what goes into getting a likely letter from this school, contact us at AdmissionSight today to schedule a free consultation.


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