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Further information regarding the admissions notification error

January 31, 2012

To the members of the Vassar community:

First of all let me thank the many of you who have responded to my earlier message regarding the 76 Early Decision applicants who saw an erroneous acceptance letter when they accessed an admissions website last Friday. Let me say again how much we regret having put these students in that difficult position. I can assure you that we have analyzed and revised our online notification system and have instituted additional measures to ensure that this will not happen again.

Some of your calls and emails expressed great disappointment, others understanding and appreciation for the communication. Many suggested responses the College might make. I am taking this opportunity to address some of those suggestions, and what we feel we can and cannot do regarding them.

Let me start by updating you on how we have communicated with the applicants. An email notification of the error was sent as soon as practical on Friday after the error was discovered, and was primarily intended to alert all applicants to the problem. On Sunday, as soon as we had determined our response, I sent an individual email to each applicant, copied to parental email addresses provided in the applicant's file. The Admissions Office is calling each of the affected applicants, offering whatever assistance we can provide for their college search process. We are not sure we will be able to reach all international students by phone, but in those cases, a member of the admissions staff will reach out in as personal a way as possible. We expect all applicants to have been contacted personally no later than today.

Since several of your suggestions were addressed in the email I sent to the applicants on Sunday, I am sharing that email here:

Dear _______,

I wanted to write to you personally with my apologies for the terribly upsetting event that took place Friday regarding your admission decision. I know that our communication error caused you considerable confusion and hurt. Vassar prides itself on providing a professional and personal relationship with everyone in our community. Obviously we have failed dramatically to do so in this instance. We are deeply sorry.

Several people have urged us to admit all of those who viewed an erroneous acceptance notification on line. Since we are not able to do so, I feel I need to explain why we feel we must adhere to the decisions made by our admission committee.

The admissions process is a careful set of decisions made over a number of months, intended to give every student a fair assessment and full consideration for admission. There are many talented students who apply for each place in the class and to do anything but honor that process would in effect deny places in the class to other students who are counting on that fair assessment. I only wish there were a way to right this situation to everyone's satisfaction.

I hope that you will accept my deepest apology. If there is anything we at Vassar can do to help as you move ahead with the college process, please let me know. I have asked staff from the Admission Office to reach out to the students involved within the next day, to see how we may be able to be helpful as you continue your process. We will be reimbursing your application fee to Vassar, which I completely understand is of very little consolation. We also stand ready to contact other schools to explain the situation in case you have already withdrawn an application and need assistance in having it reinstated.

I sincerely hope that your college search comes to a successful completion, and that Vassar's mistake will not have a lasting negative impact on a satisfying college experience.

Catharine Hill
Vassar College

The applicants' responses have been varied. Some are continuing to request to be admitted. Others have expressed appreciation and even said that they would not want to be admitted other than on their merits.

Please know that we carefully considered the appropriate way to go forward. We were concerned about these students, but also about all of the other students in our applicant pool. It seemed essential to take all applicants into account, including those who are hoping to be admitted in the regular decision round this spring.

Thank you again for your support of Vassar. More than anything, your outpouring of concern for the pain this has caused our applicants and their families is a tribute to our community, and a concern I deeply share.

Catharine Hill