Accepted, Then Denied: Vassar’s Admissions Debacle
Emily Goldberg, Web Managing Editor
February 14, 2012 • 902 views
Filed under News
For 254 high school seniors applying Early Decision to Vassar College, Jan. 27 was the day they had been waiting for. At 4 p.m. the fate of the next four years of their lives would be revealed: an acceptance, or rejection.
However none of the 254 seniors anticipated that they would receive both answers. According to the New York Times, a spokesman for Vassar, Jeff Kosmacher, said that 76 students were misinformed about their admissions decision because a “test letter” that was intended to be a placeholder for the real admissions decision was not replaced before students checked their application status online.
Subsequently, 76 applicants who should have been rejected received a notification on Vassar’s online admissions portal indicating they had been accepted. The joy that accompanies such an achievement, for these applicants, was short-lived. About an hour later the college revoked the students’ admissions due to the error, and they received a second notification, saying they had been denied admission.
“With all the admissions material, in addition to the time crunch, admissions information can be difficult to manage, but it is obviously very upsetting to see the effects the these mistakes first hand, especially when we see how invested our students are,” said guidance counselor William Plunkett.
The Staples guidance department could not release how many, if any, students applied Early or Regular decision to Vassar this year. However, according to Naviance, in 2011 three Staples students applied to the college, which has a total of 2,400 students. Two of these students were accepted, and one enrolled.
While a Vassar admissions representative did not visit Staples this past fall, College and Career Center Co-coordinator, Susan Fugitt said there has consistently been a handful of students interested in the school in past years.
“A Vassar representative has visited for the past few years, excluding this year, and a handful of students always show up,” she said.
Regardless of what college seniors are have applied to, this type of error in the college admissions process is disheartening.
“It’s a prestigious school and students work really hard to get in. It’s just a mistake that shouldn’t happen,” Matt George ’12 said. “Especially for a school under 3,000, it’s a big deal for 76 students to be affected by this.”
Although such mistakes in the admissions process have presented themselves to be rare, such issues are also a concern to juniors applying to college next fall.
“It’s important for us to be able to trust colleges and this make me tentative to apply to some schools if there could be mistakes like this,” said Grace Bergonzi ’13
Admission mistakes have other schools in past years. Last spring University of Delaware was forced to rescind 61 applicants after mistakenly accepting them due to a computer glitch. In 2003 Cornell University accidently sent an email congratulating 550 Early Decision students who had already been rejected two months prior, igniting false hopes that the school had reconsidered their applications.
While mistakes in the admissions office can be devastating, guidance counselor Deborah Slocum reminds students that they need to keep perspective.
The author of the opinion piece, Janice D’Arcy, shared her view that while being “un-accepted” from a college is clearly devastating, it is far from the worst thing that will happen to a person in their lifetime.
Slocum said she believes that the college made the right decision to rescind the students’ acceptances.
“We’re not talking about getting a free meal at a grocery store, its four years, and at such a small school it wouldn’t be fair if these students got a spot over others because of a computer glitch,” Slocum said. “I don’t think they really had a choice.”
Slocum said one of the reasons she forwarded this article was because she loved that the author took the stance that worse things can happen.
“Things happen for a reason, and it worries me how kids want to get into one school so badly,” Slocum said.
Plunkett also said that the instantaneous power of the Internet presents challenges. When so many colleges post admissions decisions online, students can find their admissions decisions the second they are released, and can inform family and friends only minutes later.
No matter how admissions decisions are released, there is little students can do have more control over such mistakes.
“These things are out of our control,” Fugitt said. “Students should not dwell on them, instead focus on present because that’s all you can do.”