Image from Pexels

Image from Pexels

Feeling alone as you swim through the terrifying waters known as the college admission process? Have no fear! We have several seniors blogging about ups, downs, and random in-betweens of their college process for the next 12 months (from June 2014 to June 2015!). Sit back, relax, and get that “OMG I totally get you, bro” feeling. Information for how to contact a blogger will be at the bottom of his/her posts.

Those of you who have been around the block a few times– and I freely admit that, in this case, by ‘the block” I mean “internet resources such as old College Confidential threads from 2005 and the classic mid-aughts documentary Ivy Dreams“*–are no doubt familiar with the concept of a likely letter, as well as its more formal cousin, an early write. Some folks–initially, for the most part, athletes, but in this day and age any candidate the admissions committee wants to make a favorable impression upon–will receive the communication in October/November if applying Early Decision and late January through mid-March for Regular Decision candidates. Likely letters are what they sound like: a notification that the applicant is likely to be officially admitted once the official notification date comes around; early writes are generally the domain of LACs and are formal notifications of acceptance that come (as one might expect) early.

They look something like this:

I apologize for the terrible blotting-out job that I did in Snipping Tool. If I had a 'hook," it was not hand-eye coordination. Image courtesy of my email.

I apologize for the terrible blotting-out job that I did in Snipping Tool. If I had a ‘hook,” it was not hand-eye coordination. Image courtesy of my email.

Or this:

I did a better job here, mostly because I re-discovered the eraser tool. Courtesy of my personal library.

I did a better job here, mostly because I re-discovered the eraser tool. Image courtesy of my email.

To put it frankly, I was not expecting to see either of these in my inbox. Ever.

The early write, from a liberal arts college that I legitimately thought I had the least chance of getting into among all its LAC brethren, came first, on Wednesday. It was a few minutes from the end of my first class, English; we had a sub and busywork that day (another important milestone in my college admissions process also involved a sub in English, so perhaps my English teacher should just never come to class, except she’s actually 100% the best so strike that from the record), so by this point in the ordeal everybody was just sitting and talking. My friends and I had already packed up and were waiting eagerly to get a jump on next period (just kidding, I had Physics next and I am never really jumping out of my seat excited for Physics). I was on my phone, as you do, doing I-don’t-remember-what, when I got a notification from my Gmail app with the subject line “X College Admissions Decision.” My first thought was that X College was letting its applicants know the specific date when admissions decisions would be released at the end of the month (as in, not really April 1 as every school would like to have you believe–but I digress, that’s a rant/ramble for another post).

My second thought was “What?!

I immediately let my friends, both those congregated around me and those reachable by text message, and my parents know. I didn’t, like, command of the whole class or anything like you might see on those YouTube videos where people film themselves opening their admissions decisions, but I was excited. Shocked. This was the last thing I would have expected. I hadn’t even initially planned on applying to X College, and unlike many of the other LACs I had applied to (okay, two), I hadn’t visited as part of a fly-in program, so I figured my odds were just as good as the other “thousands of wonderful and accomplished students [who] apply each year.” That is to say, not very.

Likely letters and early writes are meant to get the issuing school stuck in the receiving student’s head. The idea is that the applicant, having heard back from this school earlier than the others and also through a document with a veneer of exclusivity even beyond the “normal” (?) acceptance, will begin regarding the school with a particular fondness. “They wanted me!” the applicant will perhaps think, some combination of that and of actually being able to imagine themselves at the school without the caveat of “Well, I don’t know if I’ll get in.” But you do know now! And that changes everything with regards to how you regard imagining a school’s experience. Suffice it to say that the X College early write did its job: I spent the rest of the day discreetly going back to my Gmail app and re-skimming the email, excited beyond belief because (a) I knew for sure now that I was going to college! I’d been accepted to a few schools prior, but the financial aid situation was not or would not be great at any of them. But X College was more than workable. (b) it was X College. And it was an early write. Who ever would have guessed?

The next day, the novelty had worn off a little–like, 5%. I got home and prepared to deposit my stuff in my room, as the family and I were about to leave again for a second location. I was ascending the staircase, looking at my phone and listening to my brother talk about something or other, when I got another email with the subject line: “Your Y application.” Similarly innocuous, but I immediately snapped to attention, partly because of the previous day’s incident, but more significantly because I had seen somebody post a picture of the likely they had gotten from this particular school the year before on Tumblr (specifically, Appblr–yes, I, like us all, have had a long and multidimensional internet association history) and it had also had the “Your Y application” subject line. So, stunned, I dropped the binder I was holding (more for dramatic effect than anything else) and opened the email.

And sure enough.

The shock from this still hasn’t worn off. Similar to X College, I didn’t think I had any serious chance at all of getting into Y. I briefly considered applying ED in the hopes that it might boost my chances a little, but decided against it, secure in the knowledge that ED was not for me. But now here I was, likely admitted. I immediately let the same crew who had been privy to the X College news know, including my boyfriend, who responded by revealing that he had also received a likely from Y, to add another element of the surreal to this already Andre Breton-esque day. Presently the family and I went out to eat, where my brother and I battled terribly-put-together nachos (the cheese was on top and the beans were on the bottom. They basically were not bean and cheese nachos at all) and my mind continued to spin from all that had happened.

I still have several schools to hear back from, and then I’ll have to make The Choice. In two months’ time, all that will be past me, but that moment isn’t here yet, so let’s all buckle in and get ready for the explosive climax of this dizzying roller-coaster.

Finally, a particular caveat, one that I’ve seen repeated time and time again and yet one that cannot be stressed too greatly: one should never hold their breath for a likely letter or early write. As you may have gleaned from this post I had absolutely no expectation that I would get one (well, two). People, both on College Confidential and off, panic when the topic of likely letters comes up: “If I don’t get one, does that mean something bad for my admissions chances?” No! A relatively small amount of those eventually admitted to a particular school will be notified early in this manner. It means next to nothing for your eventual chances of admission. If you’re in this particular situation and find yourself likely-less, do not fret. You’ll be okay, I promise.

*Before the Brian Williams-esque scandal on journalistic integrity comes to pass**, I should make clear that Ivy Dreams does not actually refer to likely letters at any point during its runtime. I referred to it solely for the chance to give readers the opportunity to discover the greatest classic of the modern TV-movie age. I regret nothing. Also, if you haven’t already, go watch it now.

**Yes, I passed up the opportunity to make the more obvious GamerGate joke (“It’s about ethics in college applications journalism”). Because misogyny is not a joke.

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