Photographer: Jiuguang Wang/Flickr

Carnegie Mellon Mistakenly Admits 800 Students

Mass e-mails are a dangerous thing

Carnegie Mellon University just joined the ranks of MIT, Johns Hopkins University, UCLA, and other elite schools that have recently broken hearts through a technology glitch, by mistakenly e-mailing hundreds of applicants that they'd been accepted. The admissions office incorrectly sent an e-mail on Monday to about 800 people who'd applied to the university's master's program in computer science, university spokesperson Ken Walters confirmed.

"We understand the disappointment created by this mistake, and deeply apologize to the applicants for this miscommunication," Walters says. "We are currently reviewing our notification process to help ensure this does not happen in the future."

The e-mail, which was first obtained by Gawker, told applicants, "You are one of the select few, less than 9 percent of the more than 1,200 applicants, that we are inviting. ... Welcome to Carnegie Mellon!" The e-mail then offered applicants "bragging points," such as the fact that the program they had been accepted to is ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report. About seven hours later, the admissions office sent another e-mail to some students titled "CORRECTION OF PRIOR EMAIL / REVOCATION OF OFFER OF ADMISSION TO MS IN CS PROGRAM." The e-mail clarified that they had not actually gotten into Carnegie Mellon. Also, it asked, "please acknowledge receipt of this retraction."

When it comes to relaying admissions decisions, it seems like the process should be relatively simple for colleges. Accepted applicants should hear they've been accepted, and rejected applicants should hear they've been rejected. In reality, colleges seem to be messing up admissions notifications more and more—partly because the practice of sending decisions by way of thick paper envelopes is becoming increasingly obsolete. More schools are turning to e-mail to relay a "yes" or "no" to applicants. As prior admissions blunders have shown, it's easier for people to hit the wrong key than to accidentally stuff the wrong letter into an envelope. At Carnegie Mellon, Walters says, the blame for the incorrect e-mails rested with "serious mistakes in our process for generating acceptance letters."

Not that that offers much solace to applicants, who may or may not have broadcasted their acceptance before finding out Carnegie Mellon had goofed.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE