Ivy League School Sends Out Acceptance Letters by Mistake

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. aspiring / əˈspaɪər ɪŋ / (adj) – wanting to be someone or something

    The workshop is very helpful to aspiring writers.

  2. admit / ˌædˈmɪt / (v) – to grant entry

    The university is expecting to admit over a thousand students next year.

  3. retract / rɪˈtrækt / (v) – to take back a statement previously made

    The journalist retracted her claim after receiving public criticism.

  4. oversight / ˈoʊ verˌsaɪt / (n) – an unintentional mistake

    The secretary explained that the error in the letter was an oversight.

  5. rigorous / ˈrɪg ər əs / (adj) – strict or demanding

    Applying to a university involves a rigorous process.


Read the text below.

Columbia University has accidentally sent out acceptance e-mails to aspiring students.

Over 270 Columbia University applicants received an e-mail initially stating that they have been successfully admitted to the university. However, another e-mail, which retracted the previous announcement, was sent out more than an hour later.

Julie Kornfeld, Columbia’s Vice Dean of Education, expressed her apology to the hopeful applicants who received the message by mistake. She added that the university is improving its system to avoid the same oversight in the future.

Columbia University is part of the Ivy League – a group comprised of the eight most prestigious universities in the United States, which also includes Dartmouth, Brown, Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania. These universities are known for their rigorous student application and selectivity.  Every year, thousands of students attempt to enter one of these schools, but only less than 10% get accepted.  In 2016, Columbia University had only a 6% acceptance rate due to its high academic standards.

This is not the first time that a university has mistakenly sent an acceptance letter. Cornell University committed the same mistake twice, mistakenly sending out acceptance letters to 45 applicants in 1995 and around 550 applicants in 2003.

The school with the most number of misdelivered acceptance letters is the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). In 2009, the university sent out 28,000 acceptance e-mails by mistake. UCSD’s admissions director took accountability for the incident. She explained that the mistake was unintentional and was due to human error.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Who should be accountable for the sending of false acceptance e-mails (e.g. person who sent the e-mail, supervisor, school administration)?
• What should Columbia University do to compensate for the mistake?

Discussion B

• What measures can universities take to avoid making false announcements?
• How can false announcements affect a university’s reputation?