March 4, 2003

Admissions E-Mail 'Welcomes' Rejected Early Applicants

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Getting rejected from a college often elicits feelings of disappointment and anxiety among applicants. But an e-mail accidentally sent to rejected early-decision candidates at Cornell late last week congratulating them on their acceptance likely did not help ease students’ admissions angst.

The letter, sent to the 1,700 high school students who submitted early-decision applications, included nearly 550 who had already been rejected in December and early January.

“I was really excited,” said Danielle Foti, a high school senior from Red Hook, N.Y., who had applied for a place in the incoming class. “I called the admissions office to see if my rejection [in December] had maybe been a mistake.”

“Greetings from Cornell, your future alma mater!” the e-mail letter began. “Congratulations on your acceptance into the class of 2007!”

The e-mail, from Angela Griffin-Jones, dean of undergraduate admissions, continued, “I am delighted that you will be joining us as a new freshman in the fall, and I hope you are enjoying the end of your senior year, knowing that all of your college decisions are behind you.”

“I was upset when I found this all out,” Foti said.

Within a few hours of the inadvertent e-mail, the Undergraduate Admissions Office (UAO) sent a follow-up apology e-mail to those students who should not have received the e-mail. The e-mail included “heartfelt apologies,” according to a statement released by the UAO.

The Admissions Office called the e-mail a “very serious error,” the result of a “systems coding error.”

A clerical staff member entered the wrong data to download the names, including the names of students who had been denied admission with those who had been accepted earlier this year, according to The New York Times.

“It was never the intention of the Admissions Office to cause harm, even though we understand that some students and their families may have experienced distress,” Griffin-Jones said.

In response to the accidental e-mail, the UAO “immediately began reviewing causes for the situation and will implement means to ensure that errors of this kind will not occur in the future,” Griffin-Jones said.

These measures include contacting the Cornell Audit Office and the Office of Information Technologies to help create guidelines and procedures for future notifications.

“My personal apologies go out to students and families who have been affected by this unfortunate situation,” Griffin-Jones said.

Foti, the rejected Agriculture and Life Sciences applicant, still has not received an apology e-mail. Despite this, she is moving on.

“I want to go to Bard College,” she said.

Archived article by Marc Zawel