Johns Hopkins Screws up the Admissions Process, Again

It happened again. In continuance of a depressing annual tradition, Johns Hopkins sent out acceptance letters to 294 students, by mistake.

According to an article in the Washington Post:

Sam Stephenson was steeling himself for another round of college applications after his first choice, Johns Hopkins University, turned him down. Then the 17-year-old from Culpeper County in Virginia received an e-mail from Hopkins on Sunday afternoon that suggested he might still have reason to hope.

“Embrace the YES!” it said in the subject line.

It was an acceptance letter, informing the confused Stephenson that he had been admitted. He should “start using #JHU2019 on Twitter, to stop by an online store to buy Hopkins gear.”

Let’s hope he didn’t do any of that too quickly, however.

Like 293 others who had been turned down or deferred in their bid for early admission to the prestigious private university in Baltimore, Sam had received a welcome-to-Hopkins e-mail by mistake. The university, tipped off to the error by another rejected student, sent an apology Sunday evening to those affected by the head-spinning goof. Sam got the word at 5:28 p.m.: There was no reversal of his denial.

Hopkins later said that the mistake was because of “human error.” Some contractor the university hired put in the wrong email addresses in a database.

I beg to differ, Johns Hopkins. That sounds to me like an institutional error that comes as a result of how you choose to run your admissions department.

By sending acceptance and rejection letters electronically, and by farming out crucial parts of this really important and complicated task to indifferent or incompetent contractors, you make horrible errors like this more likely to occur.

The school did send out an apology, but this really seems insufficient. If colleges make mistakes like this they should have to pay a steeper price than just issuing an awkward email from the admissions dean; they should just admit the students. I bet they’ll quickly figure out a better way to run admissions the next year.

This wasn’t, however, quite as bad as the time University of California, San Diego sent acceptance letters to all 46,000 students who applied in 2009.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer