Prestigious liberal arts school Vassar College caused heartbreak for scores of early decision applicants Friday when it erroneously informed them they were accepted to the school -- only to tell them later they had in fact been rejected.
"We are terribly sorry about the confusion and disappointment the erroneous information posted online caused the students," president Catharine Hill said in a statement Sunday.
According to officials at the Poughkeepsie, N.Y. college, a special website for early decision applicants went live on Friday and posted mistaken information about the admissions status of dozens of applicants.
In the 30 minutes before the website was fixed, 122 applicants logged on to the site, officials said. Of those, 46 read a correct letter from Vassar stating they'd been admitted to the college.
The 76 other applicants read a mistaken letter stating they'd been accepted for admission, when in fact they had not been admitted.
About two hours after the mistake was corrected, the college sent apology emails to the applicants affected.
One Long Island mother described the devastating discovery to NBC New York Sunday: "My daughter logged on at 4 p.m. to find an acceptance letter," said Alise Shaughnessy. "She was euphoric, all the family was told, and celebrations were planned."
"Just wanting to see the acceptance letter again, she logged on at 6 p.m., and to her horror, saw a rejection letter instead," said Shaughnessy. "Around 6:45 she received an email from Vassar, citing 'systems errors' and lamely apologizing for 'confusion.'"
The school president, Catharine Hill, said in her statement, "We understand how very upsetting this is for those students who viewed the inaccurate decisions that we posted online, and we are very sorry to have added to the overall stress of the college admissions process for these students and their families."
School officials said there were a total of 254 applicants in the early decision group, and "only a portion of them -- 122 applicants -- logged on... during the half-hour it posted the inaccurate information."
Shaughnessy called the school's response "callous" and "unbelievable."
"Vassar knows that early decision candidates have their heart set on attending there," said Shaughnessy.
"The acceptance letter my daughter received included a link which commanded the student to withdraw their other college applications, and then e-sign," said Shaughnessy. "She didn't but I'm guessing other kids did."