fb-pixel Skip to main content

Northeastern Law sent acceptance letters by mistake. It’s happened at other schools, too.

Students on the Northeastern University campus in 2019.Rodrique Ngowi/Associated Press

An embarrassing error by Northeastern University School of Law, which mistakenly sent acceptance letters to more than 200 new applicants, may have caused disappointment for those affected, but it wasn’t without precedent in the high-stakes college admissions world.

Northeastern said Wednesday that a technical error was to blame for the 205 erroneous emails and that admissions decisions won’t be finalized until later in the current academic year. The e-mail was also mistakenly sent to 3,930 applicants who had applied a year ago, the school said.

Northeastern said it “quickly sent a clarifying e-mail explaining the error,” to those affected.

Advertisement



Here’s a primer on some of the other schools that have made similar errors in recent years.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2014: The red herring note arrived in inboxes in February 2014 with financial aid information and a line at the bottom that read, “You are on this list because you are admitted to MIT!”

An MIT admissions counselor said at the time in a blog post that the error occurred after admissions staff tried to consolidate e-mail lists of both applicants and “admits” using a technique recommended by an e-mail marketing service provider.

The 2014 posting didn’t specify how many applicants received the acceptance message in error.

Johns Hopkins University, 2014: That same year, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore mistakenly sent nearly 300 applicants welcome messages, when they were actually rejected or deferred.

The school said a contractor working with the university pulled the wrong list of e-mails. Of 294 applicants who received the faulty message, 285 had been denied admission and nine were deferred.

University of California, Los Angeles, 2012: That spring, 894 prospective students received an e-mail indicating they’d been accepted to UCLA, when in fact they’d been placed on the waiting list.

Advertisement



University of California, San Diego, 2009: The university that year sent a welcome e-mail to about 29,000 applicants who’d been rejected. The school said at the time that the e-mail had been intended for a different group of about 18,000 accepted students.

Cornell University, 2003: The Ivy League school in February of that year sent acceptance letters to 1,700 early decision applicants, including nearly 550 who’d already been rejected two months earlier.

Columbia University, 2017: Columbia, another Ivy, in February 2017 mistakenly sent acceptance notices to 277 applicants to the master’s program of its School of Public Health. The university said at the time that it quickly spotted the error and sent follow-up e-mails within an hour.

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2007: Not even Michael Jordan’s alma mater has managed to completely avoid admission miscues.

The admissions department in January 2007 mistakenly congratulated 2,700 prospective applicants on their acceptance, but that e-mail of good tidings was premature: applicants weren’t scheduled that year to learn whether they’d been accepted until March.

A UNC official said at the time that the school “deeply” regrets “this disappointment, which we know is compounded by the stress and anxiety that students experience as a result of the admissions process.”

Vassar College, 2012: The selective liberal arts school in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., that year sent 76 applicants an acceptance notice by mistake. The error was reportedly corrected within the hour.

Advertisement



Material from The Associated Press, Time Magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, and Boston.com was used in this report, and Jeremiah Manion of the Globe staff contributed.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.