College Acceptance Letters Sent Out Via Email – Then Retracted

Imagine receiving a letter of acceptance to a college, but then finding out it was a mistake. Carnegie Mellon University is the latest big-name school to commit this faux pas. Johns Hopkins made this cringe-worthy error recently as well. Fordham University in the Bronx, NYC dealt with this goof in 2013.

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Anyone getting this kind of news is bound to cry. A potential student gets his or her hopes up, just to have them dashed. And not for an error he or she made during the application process, but due to a technological glitch. Sadly, some colleges have a painful track record when it comes to breaking the wrong news about acceptances.

The latest incident, which occurred on Monday, involved Carnegie Mellon’s graduate program in computer science. There were 800 applicants who received emails informing them of their acceptance into the school’s prestigious program. Hours later they got follow-up letters explaining that this was a mistake, and the peeved pupils were asked to “please acknowledge receipt of this retraction.” How sporting.

In mid-December 2014, nearly 300 high school students were sent acceptance emails by Johns Hopkins University, when they were actually rejected or deferred. In mid-December 2013, almost 2,500 students got congratulatory emails about financial aid from Fordham University in the Bronx, when in reality they not only didn’t earn financial aid from the school, but also were not admitted.

Apparently this has become a sad annual tradition, according to a Time Magazine article. Much of the blame is due to the electronic process of college contact. Among other schools that have stepped into this embarrassing situation are Cornell University, University of California at Davis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, George Washington University, and UCLA. Private and public colleges have been reckless.

For some students this could be a crushing defeat. Others may smart from it, laugh it off and ultimately enjoy their acceptance letters from other schools. But overall this problem points to both computer mistakes and human error.

Will this cause young adults to be wary of anything and everything they receive in their email boxes? Is this a cruel exercise in learning how to “roll with the punches”? I hope that when my own daughters are high school seniors, awaiting their college fates, they will not have to deal with this problem. Good luck, all you 12th graders, here is yet another issue to cause you anxiety!

Ellen Levitt is the author of The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn (2009), The Lost Synagogues of the Bronx and Queens (2011) and The Lost Synagogues of Manhattan (2013), all published by Avotaynu. She is a lifelong New Yorker, a veteran public school teacher, writer and photographer. Bird lover as well.