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Posted at 3:42 PM ET, 02/24/2011

Christopher Newport sends erroneous admit letters to 2,000 students

By Daniel de Vise

Updated Friday afternoon with some FAQs from CNU.

Christopher Newport University in Virginia mistakenly sent 2,000 e-mails Wednesday to prospective students, telling them they'd been accepted into the fall class when in fact they had not, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

From the article:

"The e-mails titled "Welcome to CNU!" were sent at about 2:30 p.m. and were followed by an apology at 6:45 p.m. The CNU Office of Admissions is also attempting to contact all students who received the e-mail."

The balance of the university's decision letters will arrive by March 15, the article says.

An Arlington parent described her daughter's reaction in an e-mail to my colleague Jay Mathews.

"Last night my teenage daughter, a senior at Yorktown High in Arlington, squealed with joy when she received an acceptance email from Christopher Newport University, one of her top two college picks," the parent wrote.

"Delighted hugs from parents and siblings came to an abrupt halt five minutes later when she opened a second email that claimed the first had been sent out by mistake to a large group of applicants."

Another parent described the second e-mail as "heart-stomping." She forwarded me both messages.

Here's the top of the first e-mail, framed in pink:

Dear -------
My name is Kelly Scallion and I am your CNU Admissions Officer. I wanted to take this opportunity to personally congratulate you on your admission to Christopher Newport University!!!

And the second:

Dear --------,
Earlier today you may have received an e-mail from the Office of Admissions with the subject line "Welcome to Christopher Newport University!" This e-mail was sent out in error. We would like to express our most sincere apologies for any confusion this may have caused.

On Friday, university officials sent me some answers to questions they thought applicants and their parents might ask about the episode.

What happened?

Unfortunately an employee erroneously included more students from our database than intended. The University administration takes full responsibility for the error, and sincerely apologizes for any distress and inconvenience this has caused. The CNU Admissions Office was alerted to the problem when they began receiving inquiries.  We have implemented further quality controls through additional levels of review.

How are students initially contacted when they've been accepted/rejected?

The initial letter of the admissions decision is sent via U.S. Mail.  The e-mail was intended as a follow-up, encouraging already admitted students to register for orientation. 

How many students apply to CNU and how many are accepted each year?

Approximately 8,000 apply; We plan to admit between 4,000 and 4,200 qualified students. For all admitted students the average high school GPA stands at 3.8, with SAT critical reading and math scores above 1200.  We anticipate a freshman class of 1,200.  

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By Daniel de Vise  | February 24, 2011; 3:42 PM ET
Categories:  Admissions  | Tags:  CNU admission e-mails, CNU mistakenly sends admission e-mails, Christopher Newport University admission e-mails  
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Well I honestly don't know who is less educated, the parent or the "teenage daughter". I'm pretty sure even in the technological boom that is electronic mail; the formal college acceptance letter is still issued via US parcel to applicants among the lowest tier of higher learning. The fact that someone would be "heart-stomped" by such an email is simply ridiculous. I completely understand the vulnerability and excitement that is associated with college acceptance letters, but to think that this is worthy of being published is beyond me. In fact, you can expect that tomorrow I will be submitting complaints to Mr. Mathews and Mr. de Vise about spam and other arrant emails that I receive on a daily basis. I haven't been this devastated since I received my Harvard acceptance via email back in 2004. Fact of the matter is; if you have raised your child to near adulthood expecting an e-mail from one of the highest ranking up and coming Universities in the country... I suggest you have your child apply for early admissions to common sense school (they are far better suited there). That being said, if they happen offer a life long learning program you could participate in... Look into taking a few classes yourself. Its troubling to think that with all that is going on today, a pressing issue like the error of a recent graduate trying to perform their underpaid job at their alma mater necessitates any attention at all. To all you realists out there, I'll even extend my apologies on behalf of Kelly Scallion and everyone else that has sent an arrant email throughout their life (assuming that her e-mail wasn't hacked). To the rest of you, all the best at community college where instant online acceptance letter is simply an email away! Go Captains.

Posted by: bgriffin001 | February 24, 2011 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Dear bgriffin,
I went to CNU and I received my initial acceptance via email before receiving a letter at home a week later.
I'm not sure where you've been, but in 21st century America, email is a legitimate and valid form of communication. I don't know what the basis for your harsh opinions are but it is absolutely justifiable for someone to feel "heart-stomped" after believing that they were admitted into their top school and then to have that joyous feeling taken away almost immediately. Now i understand that this error from the admission office was a simple, unintended mistake but it was nonetheless a mistake that seriously impacted others. Please don't berate others unjustifiably. They have the right to be upset.

Posted by: allassan | February 25, 2011 12:08 AM | Report abuse

It was an unintended mistake, other universities have had similar things happen. Large corporations and other large institutions do sometimes make mistakes and teens old enough to go away to college should be mature enough to not only understand, but be able to put it into perspective. Being "heart stomped" is just a bit much. Be disappointed, sure, but anything more than that is ridiculous., The angry parents should also take a step back and for once try to set a good example instead of reacting like adolescents themselves. The parent who sent these e-mails to the paper did so without thinking, and instead simply reacted. There is nothing in those letters that indicates that specific admissions officer was the one responsible for sending the letter by e-mail, yet you have managed to publish this person's name and in effect by doing so you inherently place blame where there is no basis. A name on a form letter is just that, and anyone in that office could have pushed "send", and I suspect that is what happened. Good and responsible journalism means the Washington Post should have checked with the university first before printing the letters to find out who actually was responsible and then perhaps a judicious use of whiteout may have been in order to protect the reputation of an innocent admission's officer who probably is quite appalled this has happened. And for any other teens out there who have been heart broken, devastated, crushed, etc. etc. by this snafu, you are not ready to go off into the world if your reaction is that extreme, and unfortunately your parents didn't do their job in preparing you for the realities of life.

Posted by: truthmatters2 | February 25, 2011 12:51 AM | Report abuse

FYI...CNU sends out an email acceptance and follows up via snail mail. Your arrogance is apalling and you are obviously not a parent. My son was also one of the 2000 that received this e-mail with a different Admissions Officer name. Reveiving the e-mail to say you are accepted was great but then to have it taken away from you hours later was a cruel joke.

Posted by: dianenyg | February 25, 2011 8:48 AM | Report abuse

I know your comment was directed to the first letter, but dianenyg, get a grip. I am a parent, of 3 very responsible and sensible teens who have all gone off to college. To characterize this as a "cruel joke" is exactly why your son probably is now in the throes of despair... because YOU the parent did not step up and react in a more mature and measured manner. Oh, and FYI.. from your misspellings of the words "appalling and receiving" and the less than eloquent delivery, I am led to believe perhaps you may have, like other parents, shot things off quickly without thinking first.

Posted by: truthmatters2 | February 25, 2011 9:19 AM | Report abuse

How do you know how I reacted to situation? Do you know what I said to my son? You are assuming that my son is in the "throes of dispair". You assume a lot but seem to know nothing about this situation. You should know what happens when you assume. And btw please excuse the typos as everyone may not be as perfect as you think you are. It is normally an insecure person who points out the faults (or typos) of others.
I feel bad for all the young men and young women that received the e-mail. Best of luck to all of them.

Posted by: dianenyg | February 25, 2011 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Sorry...the prior post should be directed to truthmatters2. My apologies to bgriffin.

Posted by: dianenyg | February 25, 2011 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Sorry...the prior post should be directed to truthmatters2. My apologies to bgriffin.

Posted by: dianenyg | February 25, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

To the OP - I attend UVA, where I first learned of my acceptance through logging in to a student account. Next, I was sent an acceptance email, followed by a formal offer sent through the mail. Many universities, not only community colleges, as you point out, use email as an initial form of contact. It is wrong to characterize the person in the article as 'ridiculous'. Why such vitriol toward someone you don't even know? If one of the families with the erroneous email experience is reading, my heart goes out to you and your teen. Better news will be waiting for them around the corner in May!

Posted by: goldenpumpkin | February 25, 2011 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I truly do not wish to get into a sparring match with you, but, I used the word "probably" not "assume" for a reason, and frankly I know more about this situation than you think. I have had one graduate of CNU and one who is still there, and it is, in my opinion, one of the better universities in the state of Virginia. It far outpaces the larger schools in what they offer and the caliber of its graduates. The people there are decent and honest and this was just one mistake. I hope your son finds the right place to attend that is a good fit for him, but frankly, one of the problems is that in watching this situation it seems it is the parents of the high school seniors who are responding and not the teens themselves. Shouldn't they be the ones able to formulate their own letters and phone calls without mommy and daddy doing it for them? As for being "insecure"? No, just tired of grown ups not taking the time to use the preview button and making corrections accordingly. It's all about taking time to stop, think, and write cogently.

Posted by: truthmatters2 | February 25, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

This is an upsetting situation. I would expect CNU to get those acceptance letters out this week, instead of waiting until March 15. The students deserve to know after this unfortunate mistake.

Posted by: mom2lmc | February 25, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I am a student at CNU, and this school is one of the best in the state. Its crazy that people are so harsh about us. This mistake has happened at plenty of other schools, so I'm not sure why everyone is up in arms about CNU. Kelly S is awesome and is one of the best supervisors ever.
And this was an honest mistake, not like anyone planned to send out these letters.

Posted by: Chet182 | February 25, 2011 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Basically what this sounds to me is a perfect example of Generation Me and the parents that made these kids this way. These "kids" that received the e-mails are supposed to be going to college in the fall, meaning they are entering adulthood, yet here is mommy & daddy crying foul for them. In this newfound world of technology, instances like this are going to happen. I am a student at an extremely well-respected school out West and I've received a number of "accidental" emails, only for them to be followed up by an "I'm sorry, we didn't mean to send that you." It's just the way things go and if these kids can't handle a situation like this, how are they going to handle being away at college? The parents who are featured in this article should be kicking themselves in the butt for reacting the way they did. "Heart-stomped"? Seriously? Can we be anymore dramatic? It's okay to be disappointed, but c'mon man, you are teaching your children (you know, the ones going off to college) that it is okay to act irrationally and illogically during times of distress and in the face of adversity. Pull up your britches, kids. Quit having mommy and daddy do everything for you. And please, for your sake's and for that of society's, quit being such spoiled little brats.

Posted by: JFred5 | March 3, 2011 8:57 AM | Report abuse

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