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MIT Mistakenly Tells Some Applicants They’ve Been Admitted

By Oliver Staley
February 12, 2014 11:13 AM EST 29 Comments
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology received 18,989 applications for the 2013 freshman class and admitted 8.2 percent, according to its website.
Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology received 18,989 applications for the 2013 freshman class and admitted 8.2 percent, according to its website.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology sent an e-mail to prospective students, erroneously telling them in a line at the bottom that they had been admitted.

The university doesn’t know how many people received the e-mail, although the number who noticed the line was probably “very small,” Chris Peterson, an admissions officer at the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based school, said on the admission department’s blog last week.

The mix-up happened when MIT combined two separate lists for an electronic mailing about financial aid. At the bottom was a footer that said “You are on this list because you are admitted to MIT,” according to Peterson. By merging the lists in a program called MailChimp, admissions officers mistakenly imported the footer from a list of students accepted under early admissions.

The note at the bottom was supposed to say “You are receiving this e-mail because you applied to MIT and we sometimes have to tell you things about stuff,” according to the blog.

Such mistakes are occurring more often across the country as university and college admissions offices rely more on electronic communication with prospective students.

UCLA, Vassar

In 2012, the University of California at Los Angeles sent an e-mail to 894 students that had been wait-listed for admission, inadvertently suggesting they had been admitted. The same year, 76 applicants to Vassar College received an e-mail letter from the college that erroneously stated they had been accepted.

MIT’s Peterson said he sympathizes with prospective students because of a rejection letter he received as a college applicant that mixed up both his name and gender.

“It crushes -- crushes -- me to think that I might have unintentionally inflicted something similar on some of you,” he wrote. “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.” 

MIT received 18,989 applications for the 2013 freshman class and admitted 8.2 percent, according to its website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Oliver Staley in London at ostaley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Wolfson at lwolfson@bloomberg.net

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