Harvard Likely Letter: What to Know

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Young woman reading a letter in front of a laptop.

Harvard Likely Letter: What to Know

When it comes to applying to top schools like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and other Ivy League universities, one thing that applying students look out for is likely letters.

While it is very important to know that not all students that end up getting into these top schools will first get likely letters, getting a Harvard likely letter – for example – is an incredibly good sign that you will soon be offered a spot in the upcoming graduating class at Harvard!

But what is a likely letter and what does getting a likely letter from Harvard mean? At AdmissionSight, we make it a top priority to offer the students that we work with all of the important information and facts regarding the application process at top schools.

Old university building surrounded by trees.

We firmly believe that utilizing education as a tool can help push students over the edge when it comes to being considered by the top schools in the country. Of course, even the most intelligent and dedicated students are not always able to get into the most competitive schools, but knowing what these schools like, and understanding the application process in its entirety can absolutely help!

Our knowledge of how the application process works at schools like Harvard is a big reason for the success that we enjoy with the students that we work with every application cycle! Every year, 75 percent of the students that we work with end up getting into Ivy League schools like Harvard, Columbia, and Brown or other top-10 schools like Stanford, MIT, and Caltech. Considering the fact many of these schools had acceptance rates below 5.0 percent in the 2021-22 application cycle, a 75 percent success rate is incredibly impressive, if we do say so ourselves!

So, if you are interested in learning about what it means to get a Harvard University likely letter, what to do once you have received one, and how to improve your chances of receiving one once you do apply to these top schools, then you have absolutely come to the right place!

Let’s get started on breaking it all down together.

What are likely letters?

Before we go into regarding Harvard likely letters specifically, we want to quickly break down what a likely letter is.

Essentially, highly selective universities and colleges, such as Harvard 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 Harvard send likely letters?

Even though there are many prestigious schools that send out likely letters, it is important not to assume anything about Harvard. Even compared to the other seven schools in the Ivy League, Harvard is known for doing some things a bit differently. It is part of the reason why it is one of the few schools in the United States that is truly considered to be on par with the most historic and prestigious schools in the world!

With that being said, while most universities in the United States do not announce that they send likely letters, all eight Ivy League schools – including the top schools like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Columbia – do send likely letters. Other prestigious liberal arts schools and universities like Duke, Stanford, and the University of Chicago also send likely letters.

It is important to know that in general, most public and state universities do not send likely letters to applicants.

All this so say, yes, Harvard does send likely letters. While it is unclear how many students can expect to receive a likely letter from Harvard in a given application cycle, it is clear that some students do in fact get a Harvard likely letter.

What does a likely letter typically say?

If you are hoping to one day get a likely letter from Harvard, you may be curious about what these kinds of letters typically say. Overall, likely letters are known to be somewhat flattering so entice the student to remain invested in potentially attending that school one day. Here is a quick example of what a likely letter from Harvard might say:

“Greetings from the Office of Admissions at Harvard University! I am writing to you today to update you on your application and let you know how impressed my colleagues and I have been with your many accomplishments, both academic and otherwise.

We feel that your interests and talents, as well as your goals, are a fantastic match for Harvard University. While we will not be sending out official offers just yet, we thought you would like to know that you are likely to be admitted when the time comes. Congratulations!”

Remember, this is just an example based on the likely letters that AdmissionSight has seen from the students that we have worked with in previous application cycles.

It is also interesting to note that likely letters are sometimes used as a way to help a unique applicants “prepare” themselves and their family for the soon-to-come acceptance letter. This is primarily for people who may not come from the traditional pool of students that apply and get into Harvard.

“If you’re, say, the first in your family to go to college and come from a very rural part of America, having a little longer period of time might help you start to get your family ready for the idea that maybe you’re going to be going off a long way away,” Harvard College Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons said.

“You try out a way for people who might be outside that sort of normal, mainstream of applicants to send a signal,” he added.

Does a likely letter from Harvard guarantee admission?

It is important to know that a likely letter does not in fact guarantee admission at any school, and top schools like Harvard 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 that.

If you do end up receiving a 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 in order to make sure they get another positive letter from Harvard soon are to keep your grades up, don’t get suspended, and – of course – don’t have any run-ins with the law or an arrest. With that being said, 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 Harvard

When it comes to getting a likely letter from Harvard specifically, students essentially have to separate themselves from the tens of thousands of students that apply in the same year and make it clear that they are truly among the best of the best. As previously mentioned, students who come from backgrounds that are unique amongst applicants have been known to be the most likely recipients.

However, that fact is basically out of your control. So what can you do to improve your chances of receiving a highly coveted letter from Harvard? There are a few things that you can do to improve your chances, and it basically has to do with just making sure that you are as attractive an applicant as possible. Here are a few things to keep in mind!

Take advanced courses

You obviously are going to want to earn as high a grade point average as possible in high school to even be considered a realistic candidate at Harvard. However, to make sure that you are truly among the elite of applicants at Harvard, you are going to want to fill your high school course list with advanced courses. For the vast majority of students, this is going to mean taking as many AP, IB or Honors classes as possible.

Young woman studying in a room.

In fact, if you really want to separate yourself from the pack and increase your chances of not only getting into Harvard, but also receiving a Harvard likely letter, you are going to want to take full advantage of any community college or four-year school in your area and try to enroll in courses there.

Your ability to do this is going to depend heavily on both your high school’s, and the other school’s, willingness to let you enroll, but this is not all that rare for students studying topics more advanced than what is offered at their high school.

Demonstrate passion and leadership throughout high school

This is why extracurriculars during high school are so crucial for students who are interested in attending schools like Harvard. Harvard wants to make sure that it is admitting students who will be able to have a profound and positive impact on the college campus community once they arrive in Cambridge, Mass.

Not only do the extracurriculars that a student commits their time to offer insight into what kind of career paths they may choose, but assuming roles of leadership within those extracurriculars will prove that the student is dedicated to having an impact on the communities that they are a part of.

Students talking during a group meeting.

Students these days are advised to get more involved in less activities rather than less deeply involved in a wider range of activities. This is especially going to help improve your chances of getting a likely letter from Harvard if the activities that you do invest your time and energy in are unique and different from the majority of Harvard applicants.

Contribute to your community

Proving that you have leadership abilities to show that you will be a positive member of your community when you get to Harvard is another fantastic way to improve your chances of receiving a likely letter from the school. Admissions officers at top colleges and universities love to offer spots in an upcoming graduating class to students who are involved, passionate, and know how to make an impact on the communities and groups that they are a part of.

Students doing a community service.

In fact, Harvard specifically says that “contributions that students make to the well-being of their secondary schools, communities and families are of great interest to us.”

So, students who are interested in getting into Harvard should make sure to take part in some of, if not all of the following:

  • Extracurricular activities
  • Local community
  • Work experiences

However, it should also be mentioned that students who show just general interest in community advocacy groups or volunteer groups likely won’t get the upper hand when applying to Harvard. Instead, high school students should make sure that they are only taking part in things that they truly care about so that they can display true commitment and interest.

This is – as you may have already expected – especially true for students who come from communities or parts of the world that are underrepresented on Harvard’s incredible campus.

Other factors

One final thing we really want to nail down is that getting a likely letter is often going to depend on factors that students themselves cannot control. As mentioned previously, the students who are known to regularly receive these kinds of unofficial notices from schools like Harvard are often the kinds of students that the school thinks will need more time to prepare for their enrollment.

This could mean a student who may need additional financial aid, or a student who is the first within their family to actually go to college.

Still, being one of the most elite students in your application pool does come with its benefits. And if you are among that hyper-elite group, you shouldn’t be surprised to get a likely letter from one school or another.

In the end, the school’s decision to send out these likely letters is going to come down to both yields and recruiting of students. They basically serve the purpose of getting a student that they want to already see themselves on the school’s campus. Of course, all of the elite schools are essentially competing for much of the same elite pool of students.

So, to get ahead of the competition on their end – meaning the other top schools that top students tend to apply to – they send out the letter as a signal that is basically saying, “Hey, we really want you at Harvard.” Understandably, this kind of message works for a fair amount of students who have dreamt of attending the school for years.

When Harvard likely letters come out

While Harvard will usually accept just around 2,000 students per application cycle, a rather small fraction of that number ends up actually getting a likely letter. Harvard has been known to send out a few hundred likely letters per year at most. But when do those letters come out?

Harvard walkways and buildings.

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 Harvard 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 Harvard likely letter

At this point, you know that getting a likely letter from Harvard is even more unlikely than getting into Harvard at all! It is also important to remember that just because you do not get a likely letter from Harvard does not mean that you will not go on to eventually get accepted by the school. Still, a likely letter is going to allow you to breathe a lot easier by the time official acceptance letters are actually being sent out.

In the end, the best way for students to make sure that they are in line to get a Harvard likely letter or a Harvard acceptance letter is to do everything that they can to make sure that they rank amongst the elite of the elite within their application pool. This is really hard to achieve, and it is sometimes even hard to figure out what to target to be within that tiny group. If you are curious about what you can do to improve your chances of getting a Harvard likely letter, contact us at AdmissionSight today to schedule a free consultation.


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