Seventy-six teenagers had their dreams realized last week when Vassar—a "highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861," if you didn't know—informed them that they'd been accepted to the class of 2016.
Their futures in mostly low-paying public sector jobs secured, they rejoiced. They bought sweatshirts. They called their grandmas. Some even popped bottles. Then,
a day later a few hours later, the college took those dreams and said, "Oops, JK. Remember that whole 'highly selective' thing?"
I'm paraphrasing, of course. A Vassar spokesman explained to the New York Times in much more appropriate apology-speak that a pesky "system error" had published a "test letter" for 122 early admission applicants who checked the admissions website on Friday afternoon. 46 were, in fact, admitted; the remaining 76 must now look for other options, or sue. At least one family told the Times that they were considering taking legal action as the decision would have been binding.
In an email to Vassar students and alumnae/i on Sunday, college president Catharine Hill acknowledged that the school had put the applicants "in a terrible position" and said that the college had sent "our deepest apologies" for the blunder.
Those who were rejected may never get a chance to play pretend sports (my freshman year roommate at Vassar once listed "Snitch" on her resume) or take psychedelic drugs in a field in the name of school spirit, but they are finding perfectly constructive outlets for their frustration: Online message boards. Over at College Confidential, mecca for helicopter parents and their overachieving children, Francois—"one of the 76"—has compared his misery to that of a lighthouse in a stormy sea:
The moment when I realised that everything was not meant to be, I felt the world crumbling over me. It felt like I was waddling through the stormy seas, and just when I was about to reach a lighthouse, I was swallowed by the unforgiving waves. While I do not expect anyone to support us, I implore everyone to empathise with our situations. What would you have felt had you thought that you had reached safety and comfort, only to realise that it was a case of so close, yet so far?
Ouch. Chin up, Francois. You're going to make a great contribution to a gloomy campus lit mag wherever you end up.
UPDATE: Vassar has now announced that it will reimburse the $65 application fee for the 76 students and will request that other colleges reinstate any applicants who withdrew from other schools. Everything is fine.