Message sent…Oops! We’ve all been there. Accidentally sending a text message or a Snapchat to the wrong person or even the wrong message to someone who’s not supposed to know.
Unfortunately on Wednesday, Feb. 15, the admissions office of Ivy League Columbia University accidentally informed 277 students of acceptance into their master’s program. This mistake led to over 200 future soon-to-be graduates anticipating their future at the graduate school. Would tears of joy or tears of failure follow? Those 277 students, who were falsely accepted into Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, then received another email an hour later that revoked their acceptances.
In the follow-up email, Columbia University Vice Dean for Education Julie Kornfeld explained that the mistake was “due to human error.” Kornfeld further explained, “We deeply apologize for this miscommunication. We value the energy and enthusiasm that our applicants bring to the admissions process and regret the stress and confusion caused by this mistake.” However, no explanations were clear if those 277 students were put into a certain category from the rest of those who applied to the Mailman program. What was distinct about this group that made them receive the mistake? This master’s program is one of the country’s top public health schools enrolling about 1000 master’s students, so could they have added an additional one-third?
One applicant who requested anonymity explained in the New York Times, saying, “It’s ridiculous. I don’t understand how they can get away with it and just say ‘sorry.’” For those other 276 applicants, several experienced a mixture of feelings as the two rounds of unbelievable news shattered their hearts.
With this unforgettable mistake, Columbia University hopes to avoid another mishap as Kornfeld explained in her follow-up email that the university is “working assiduously to strengthen our internal procedures.”
However, Columbia has not been the only school to make this mistake. In fact, several other well-known universities have sent erroneous acceptances to their applicants, and some had been sent to greater amounts of applicants. Just this past December, Tulane University made a similar mistake, falsely accepting 130 students who applied to Early Decision.
More recently, occurring in the past year was Carnegie Mellon University that accepted 800 applicants to their graduate computer science program. SUNY University Buffalo sent out false acceptances to 5,000 students informing approval for financial aid, but later, students received a second email explaining the bad, truthful news. But possibly the biggest mistake occurred in 2009 that involved University of California, San Diego, sending out acceptance letters to everyone who applied, all 46,000 students, and even the 28,000 applicants who were intended to be rejected.
While Columbia appears to have its turn in this mistake of miscommunication, this university was not the first and will definitely not be the last to deliver the follow-up awkward news. Since technology will always be the future of communication, glitches are sure to happen, especially when organizing and analyzing large quantities of applicants.
So was Columbia’s mishap a disaster? Yes. But can they make everyone happy afterwards? Unfortunately no, since this prestigious university can only hold space for those who are truly qualified for such rigorous graduate programs.