MIT Accidentally Told Applicants They Got Accepted to the School

They are "so, so sorry" for the mistake.

Photo By Margaret Burdge

Photo By Margaret Burdge

It may be home to some of the brightest students in the world, but even people at MIT make mistakes.

Last week, the school accidentally sent out an email to students awaiting a reply about whether or not they were accepted to the school with a tagline that read: “You are on this list because you are admitted to MIT!”

The problem, however, was that the message wasn’t necessarily true for everyone that received the email.

In a blog post about the mix-up posted on Tuesday, titled “About that email,” Chris Peterson, admissions counselor for web communications at MIT, explained what went wrong.

According to Peterson, the school uses a system called MailChimp to get notifications via email out to prospective and admitted students. They have two separate lists for each category, each with its own tagline explaining why the student may have received a specific correspondence from the school. For those that have already been admitted, they receive the “You are on this list because you are admitted to MIT” message at the end of the email. Applicants, however, were supposed to receive a message that read, “You are receiving this email because you applied to MIT and we sometimes have to tell you things about stuff.”

While cleaning up the two lists so that all student accounts were updated to reflect the most recent expressed preference about receiving email alerts, Peterson took the recommendation of MailChimp and combined them together. His hope was that it would make the process easier, while maintaining the preferential data, but he soon discovered the plan backfired.

He goes on to explain:

Combining [lists] also imports the footer notice from one list to the other, in this case from the admit list to the applicant list. In other words, it replaced one line, in small print, at the bottom of the email, after we had already (extensively) drafted, reviewed, and approved the text of the email itself. We never even knew.

Peterson said in the blog post that he didn’t think the slip-up impacted many people on the list of applicants waiting to hear back, but he was sorry all the same. “I’m incredibly, incredibly sorry to everyone who received this and read it and felt the mixture of confusion, elation, frustration it must have engendered. We send out dozens of emails to hundreds of thousands of people and try to do it perfectly every time. We didn’t this time, and it’s my fault, and I hope you’ll forgive me,” he wrote.

On a college discussion thread, where those that received the email were trying to figure out if the message was legitimate or not, some seemed annoyed by the mistake. User “Actman21” wrote: “Seems pretty cruel. I mean I know it’s MITs style to joke around but it seems kinda [sic] cruel to say that and get our hopes up.”

But others understood. “Hey, mistakes happen, and the fact that you’re accepting responsibility and responding like you are says a lot to me. No hard feelings here,” someone wrote.

The actual acceptance notifications are scheduled to go out in March.