February 14, 2014
Every year thousands of high school graduates eagerly wait to see if they have earned one of the highly coveted spots at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Last week, many hopeful applicants heard those magical words, "you are admitted to MIT", only to find later that their letter was a mistake.
The Boston Globe reported that an unknown number of MIT applicants received a financial aid email from the school that erroneously included a message in the footer that read, "You are on this list because you are admitted to MIT!" The footnote had been sent to early action students who had been admitted in December and was mistakenly added to the recent email after consolidating lists.
According to an MIT blog post, Chris Peterson, an admissions counselor who handles Web communications, explained that the two email lists were consolidated in MailChimp in order to remove students who requested that the school no longer email them. Usually the school updates its lists by deleting and then remaking them. This time, however, the school used MailChimp's recommended method of combining lists, which would reflect applicants' most recent email preferences without having to delete and remake lists. In doing so, however, the footnote from one list gets imported to the other, and in this case it was the footnote from the admit list to the applicant list.
The Boston Globe reported that admissions staff did not discover the error until confused applicants started posting questions on the College Confidential website. The school immediately apologized for the mistake.
"My guess is that overall a very small number of our current applicants even noticed this… but any number of people getting this kind of mixed signal is too many," wrote Peterson in the blog post. "I've been on that side and I know how it feels. And if you've now felt it too, in part because of me, I'm so, so sorry."
According to USA Today, applicants took the news well.
"I do not think it's a big deal," said Corey Cook, who is waiting to on a decision from MIT. "It was a little footnote to a financial aid email… Accidents happen. And I would hope that people know that a college wouldn't give you an admissions decision through a footnote in an unrelated email."
Another applicant commented on Peterson's blog post, admitting that he was disappointed, but thanked Peterson for explaining the error promptly, noted The Boston Globe.
Some applicants were still excited, even after learning that the acceptance was an error.
"I'm happy to say that I received an email telling me that I was admitted to MIT, even though it was a mistake," commented another applicant on the blog, as quoted by The Boston Globe.
Though rare, communication blunders are nothing new in college admissions. Peterson shared his own personal story from ten years ago when he received a rejection letter from his top choice school addressed to "Christine Peterson Fitzpatrick". Despite the mistaken name, Peterson said he was indeed rejected.
USA Today reported that many colleges are moving their admissions procedures online, which has increased notification errors in recent years. Institutions such as Fordham University, Vassar College, UCLA, Penn State and the University of Delaware have all been guilty of similar accidents. In some cases, colleges absorbed the error and accepted the mistakenly admitted applicants. MIT, however, could not.
According to the blog post, current applicants can expect to receive the real decision sometime in March.
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"About That Email," mitadmissions.org, February 5, 2014, Chris Peterson, http://mitadmissions.org/blogs/entry/about-that-email
"Applicants get errant MIT acceptance message," bostonglobe.com, February 12, 2014, Matt Rocheleau, http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/02/12/welcome-mit-not-fast/B9cnbr3MPQjMlOUzqpthsO/story.html
"Email to MIT applicants accidentally includes line saying they're admitted," boston.com, February 11, 2014, Matt Rocheleau, http://www.boston.com/yourcampus/news/mit/2014/02/email_to_mit_applicants_accidentally_includes_line_saying_theyre_admitted.html
"MIT admits admissions e-mail goof," usatoday.com, February 12, 2014, Greg Toppo, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/12/mit-vassar-ucla-fordham-admissions-students/5419261/