GW mistakenly sent an e-mail letter of acceptance to a number of Early Decision II applicants last Wednesday - after the students had already received a letter of rejection - a top University official said last week.
Executive Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Kathy Napper said Wednesday the mistake affected a "very small number" of applicants. University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said Monday evening that the e-mail - sent to some Early Decision II applicants - was sent to "less than 200 applicants."
Sherrard said the admissions office did not currently have the exact number of mistakenly sent e-mails, and said the "less than 200" figure was Napper's "best estimate at this point."
"A very small number of Early Decision 2 applicants received the email in error," Napper said in an e-mail Wednesday. "We realized the computer glitch soon after it was sent and have already sent an apology email to those students."
The second e-mail sent to students said: "This afternoon, you received an email from me titled "Important GW Information." Unfortunately, this email was sent to you in error. We are truly sorry for this confusion regarding your application to GW." The e-mail also directed the applicants to check their status online.
Senior Vice President for Student and Academic Services Robert Chernak said the mistake happened in part because of the snowfall in the District last week, which caused acceptance packets to be delayed.
"In the normal procedure, after the early decision is made we send an e-mail out and then we follow up with an official package of acceptance. In this situation, the snow really slowed up the delivery of the acceptance packets," Chernak said. "So Kathy [Napper] felt that it would be a good idea to send an e-mail to those people who were accepted, that was the theory, for Early Decision II. As those instructions went down the chain of command in the admissions office to the operational level, the individual who sent out the e-mail... touched the wrong button on the list."
Sherrard said as of Jan. 29, the University had received around 825 Early Decision II applicants.
For Early Decision II applicant Elana Jacobson, from West Palm Beach, Fla., the mistake was heartbreaking.
"Someone probably thought someone died," Jacobson said. "I was sitting in the middle of the hallway crying my eyes out. It was confusing - I didn't know if I was in the school, rejected, accepted, or deferred."
Jacobson said she received an e-mail Feb. 4 telling her to check her online application status - where she learned she was rejected from the University. But last Wednesday, Jacobson received an e-mail congratulating her on her acceptance - an e-mail sent to her by mistake.
"I received an e-mail and it said 'Congratulations and welcome to the class of 2014, go Colonials,' " Jacobson said.
Jacobson said she immediately e-mailed Napper to ask for her admissions status.
"She sent me an e-mail back and said I am truly sorry for the inconvenience, that it was an error and to check your official status online," Jacobson said.
Jacobson said she was disappointed with the way the "glitch" was handled by the Office of Admissions.
"They either could have given a phone number to call or sent out a voicemail to assist applicants with the problem," Jacobson said. "Some sort of notification that was more personal than just, 'Oh, sorry it was an error.' "
GW is not the first university to make this mistake. Last year, Cornell University's Office of Financial Aid mistakenly sent an e-mail to 25 rejected students congratulating them on their acceptance, The Cornell Daily Sun reported. In one of the larger incidents last year, the University of California at San Diego, sent acceptance e-mails to all of the 46,377 students who applied for admission, including the 29,000 applicants who were rejected.
Lauren French contributed to this report.