UCLA apologized today for wrongly sending congratulatory admission letters to 894 high school students who were actually on the wait-list. The letters for entry in fall 2012 went out along with the thousands of admitted students. The students also received a financial aid notice, the LA Times reported.
Campus spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said in a statement that was posted on the university's website, "UCLA is aware that this is a particularly anxious time for students and their families and has apologized to students and parents who may have been led to believe they were admitted rather than still on the wait-list."
UCLA officials said the mistake was due to a human error, and the financial aid office sent out messages Monday to retract the admission and apologize for the confusion.
While there is no doubt there are many high school seniors with deflated hopes at the moment, experts say this is a teachable moment on how to deal with disappointment and rejection in the future. By the time kids are at college-seeking age, they likely have experienced disappointments, and it is the job of parents and educators to help teens deal with setbacks, said John Walkup, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
"Hope for the best and prepare for the worst," said Walkup. "If a child has historically had trouble with disappointments or abrupt reversals of fortune, then definite preventative mental health interventions are warranted to plan for managing strong adverse emotions. Such reactions shouldn't be a surprise if parents are paying attention to their kids' histories of managing their expectations, dreams and disappointments."
Talking about this and sharing feelings with a sympathetic listener, a parent, can be quite helpful, said Dr. Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn.
"Ultimately the repercussions for these students certainly might be to make them very cautious and hesitant about believing what they are told without extensive checking," which, Hilfer said, is not always a bad thing.
"They certainly may be less trusting and perhaps so angry at UCLA that they won't want to go there, even if taken from the waiting list," said Hilfer. "I wish them well and hope they had good backup plans."
The deluge of additional information we have in today's world through the Internet and social networks might heighten anxiety for students at this time. While it is certainly a disheartening disappointment, Dr. Carol Bernstein, associate professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center, said it's also important for parents to remind their children that this is a "distressing, but not an earth-shattering mistake."
"There are many different ways we define success and we have to remember that. Not every kid should go to Harvard," she continued. "Ultimately, we should all want our children to live meaningful and happy lives in the way that is best suited for them."