The Johns Hopkins University sent 294 erroneous acceptance emails Sunday to students who had previously been told they were denied admission, school officials said Wednesday.
The school discovered the gaffe later on Sunday, then sent out apology emails, officials said. Yet the mistake, which school officials blamed on human error, prompted a storm of criticism and ridicule online, particularly using the Twitter feed #JHU2019, where students who are accepted are encouraged to turn for information.
One student who was turned down posted side-by-side images of his acceptance and apology letters on the site.
Johns Hopkins spokesman Dennis O'Shea said that of 1,865 early-decision applicants, 539 were accepted. The other 1,326 were not accepted, and of that group, 294 were sent the Sunday follow-up email message intended for accepted students.
"Johns Hopkins early decision acceptances were announced on Friday; all those decisions were announced accurately," O'Shea said. "Our applicants were able to log into a secure website and learn if they had been accepted.
"On Sunday, Dec. 14, due to human error at a vendor working for our undergraduate admissions office, a congratulatory follow-up email message intended for accepted students was unintentionally sent to some of those students who had not been accepted," added O'Shea, who said the vendor was an independent company.
"When the problem was discovered, we quickly sent out a correction to those who had received the message by mistake," O'Shea added. "We sincerely apologize to the students affected and to their families. This was an unacceptable error and we are working to ensure that future communications are accurate and correctly distributed."
O'Shea said that early-decision applicants had to apply by Nov. 10 with the understanding that if they were accepted they would commit to attending Hopkins. He said that the next admissions process — the regular application deadline — is Jan. 5.
It marks the second time this year that a Baltimore-area school has distributed erroneous acceptance announcements to prospective students. In March, Goucher College sent erroneous emails to parents of 60 students saying their children had been admitted. Nationally, Fordham University, MIT, Vassar College and UCLA are also reported to have sent out erroneous acceptance letters.
O'Shea said that Hopkins is working with the vendor to ensure that procedures are in place to "to be certain that future email messages go to the correct audiences.
"We very much regret having added to the disappointment felt by a group of very capable and hardworking students," O'Shea said, "especially ones who were so committed to the idea of attending Johns Hopkins that they applied early decision."