Although there will be no early admissions program at Harvard and Princeton next fall, prospective athletic recruits vying to attend these schools will continue to receive information about their chance of acceptance well before the main pool of applicants.
Both universities have announced that the existing Ivy League practice of mailing out “likely letters,” which indicate to prospective athletes as early as October that they will have a spot in the next year’s entering class, will continue next fall, even though applications will not be due until January 1. Issues of economic fairness and ensuring ample time for candidates were at the forefront of debates at Harvard, Yale and Princeton, and officials at both Harvard and Yale said the impact on athletic recruiting was not a significant factor in the decision-making process.
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Chuck Sullivan, director of communications for Harvard athletics, said despite his university’s recent decision to get rid of early admission, the Dean of Admissions has ensured that avenues for recruiting Crimson athletes will remain the same.
“At Harvard, we don’t expect the recruitment of student-athletes to change too much — in part because Harvard’s early action policy was nonbinding and in part because Harvard will continue to issue ‘likely letters’ to selected applicants, as permissible by Ivy League policy,” he said.
According to the Ivy League Admission Statement, “likely letters” have the effect of a letter of admission but are dependent on the candidate continuing a “satisfactory secondary school experience.” There is no set date on which schools issue likely letters, but Oct. 1 is the first day the letters can be sent.
Athletics departments are prohibited from giving a prospective recruit any form of notification about his chance of admission until the student actually applies, so Sullivan said coaches at Harvard will encourage talented athletes to send in their applications as early as possible.
Still, a likely letter is not binding. The official decision, he said, which the admissions office makes available at a later date, is very much contingent on the student’s academic performance through the winter of his or her senior year.
Coaches at Yale said they have discussed how Harvard and Princeton’s decisions to eliminate early admissions will impact recruiting here, but many said they did not anticipate much change as long as the other schools continue to send likely letters.
“It’s too early to tell what the real effect will be,” said men’s soccer coach Brian Tompkins. “If a school wants to be competitive it needs to have some way of keeping its recruitment competitive.”
In the broader arena of athletics recruiting, Tompkins said, the Ivy League is already at a disadvantage because universities that can offer athletic scholarships pressure recruits to make decisions as early as the end of their junior years, several months before likely letters are allowed.
Volleyball coach Erin Appleman said the admissions changes will not be a factor for the future of her team because volleyball recruiting begins very early in a high school career. She also said because the volleyball programs on the Big Three campuses are so different, a student considering Yale may not necessarily be looking at Harvard and Princeton, so the recent modifications to the admissions process will likely have little impact.
But athletes considering multiple Ivy League programs, the termination of early admissions at two of the eight universities could prove to be a considerable factor in the future.
“In an ideal world, the decision of Harvard and Princeton to eliminate early decision would not impact the decisions of recruited athletes, as recruits should select schools based on the institution, not the timeliness of acceptance,” said Sara Greenberg ’09, a member of the women’s lacrosse team. “However, there is definitely a value to ‘security,’ and if anything, Harvard and Princeton’s change in admissions policy may give Yale a boost as recruits may want to have an acceptance letter in their hands in the fall rather than in the spring.”
Yale administrators said the impact on athletics recruiting was not at the forefront of their discussions about early admissions, though Athletics Director Tom Beckett made a presentation to the committee that reviewed the policy.
“[Athletics] was not a major consideration in our thinking,” Yale President Richard Levin said. “We just figured we’d decide what was best then think through the implications for athletic recruiting later.”
But the precise implications of the universities’ decisions will not become clear until the fall, when the first class of athletic recruits submits their applications.
“This is a time of change in recruitment of college athletics,” said Director of Athletics Tom Beckett. “I can’t make a definitive analysis. Clearly there will be change in the future. We just have to sit back to wait and see.”