After they'd celebrated, the disappointed students learned it was an error seven hours later

By Andrea Billups
Updated February 18, 2015 08:30 AM
Credit: Pichaya Viwatrujirapong/Getty

Carnegie Mellon University’s master’s degree program in computer science is ranked No. 1 in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

But despite the school’s technological prowess, the program’s computers generated faulty emails telling around 800 applicants that they had been accepted – only to send them heartbreaking follow-ups that their admissions had been in error, the Associated Press reported.

“It was brutal. I didn’t get much sleep last night,” Stamford, Connecticut, student Ben Leibowitz told the AP Tuesday after he’d already gone out with his parents to celebrate.

“Now I have to clean up the mess. I’m calling all my relatives, I’m going, ‘I’m sorry it’s not happening,’ ” he added.

Students at first received an exciting missive: “You are one of the select few, less than 9 percent of the more than 1,200 applicants, that we are inviting … Welcome to Carnegie Mellon!” noted Gawker, which first reported the snafu.

Seven hours later, a correction was emailed, Bloomberg said: “CORRECTION OF PRIOR EMAIL / REVOCATION OF OFFER OF ADMISSION TO MS IN CS PROGRAM.”

The university’s spokesman, Kenneth Walters, offered apologies, noting the “serious mistakes” that led many students to have been “incorrectly flagged” for admission. He said the process was under review to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“We understand the disappointment created by this mistake, and deeply apologize to the applicants for this miscommunication,” Walters told the AP.

Errors like this are not uncommon, noted Time‘s Katy Steinmetz, who has tracked admissions problems at other major universities. She acknowledged that it was deeply hurtful to students seeking to get ahead.

“This kind of spirit-crushing mixup has become a nearly annual rite of college admissions, particularly since application processes went electronic in the early 2000s,” she added.