USF St. Petersburg sends ‘mistake’ congratulatory admissions emails

Pinellas County

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s one of the most exciting moments for a high school senior.

The moment they’ve worked for for years.

That perfect letter containing the most magical phrase ever.

Congratulations, you’ve been accepted.

For many high school seniors, that moment came over the weekend when an email was sent out by the admissions office at USF St. Petersburg.

The email told around 430 students they got into college.

It was a mistake.

In a heartbreaking follow-up email, just an hour later, students were sent another piece of correspondence telling them to “please disregard the previous email,” that it was “a system error.”

Talk about knocking the wind out of your sails.

“It’s such a huge moment for any student who gets accepted into college. It’s what so many students are waiting for and anticipating,” said St. Petersburg mom, Kelli Barr.

Barr is a not only a mom, but also a former Bull herself.

She couldn’t believe it when she heard it.

She says it happened to a number of students at Dixie Hollins High School in Pinellas County. Seniors were devastated when they learned of the mistake.

Barr says this is unacceptable, and there’s no excuse for something like this to happen.

She told WFLA she felt heartbroken for many of her daughter’s friends and classmates, students who worked hard for years and were thrilled to receive a congratulatory email.

Then, an hour later, they received the crushing news.

“I can’t imagine, as a high school senior to get that kind of an email you’ve been accepted only to be told it was some kind of a system error,” Barr said.

Kelli contacted 8 On Your Side, and we went to work asking questions and trying to get answers from the university.

We reached out to USF-St. Petersburg with the following questions:

  • How did this happen?
  • How many students received the email?
  • Is there any chance that those same students will be issued acceptance letters in the future?
  • Can students reapply?
  • How will the university prevent this “errror” from happening again?

We received a response from USF-St. Petersburg telling us they’re looiking into what happened, but because today was a holiday, it would, most likely, be Tuesday before they could fully research the situation and provide an answer. 

“I just feel awful for these students,” said Barr. “I’m a USF alum, and I’m really disappointed with my school. I hope they make it right.”

USF St. Petersburg did issue the following statement to 8 On Your Side just after 7 p.m. Monday:

We were dismayed to learn that about 430 acceptance emails were mistakenly sent on Saturday due to human error. As educators, we understand the grief and distress such a mistake can cause. We apologize to all of the affected students and their families and are taking immediate steps to ensure this never happens again. We will reach out to every individual student who received the incorrect email to discuss possible pathways to admission to USF St. Petersburg in the future.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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