MIT officials said the email about financial aid was sent to students accepted through MIT's early action program and applicants awaiting a final decision from the school in March and contained a line at the bottom reading, "You are on this list because you are admitted to MIT," the Tech, MIT's student newspaper, reported.
Chris Peterson, an MIT admissions counselor who handles web communications, said the version sent to students still awaiting a decision should have read, "You are receiving this email because you applied to MIT, and we sometimes have to tell you things about stuff," instead of the line about having been accepted, the Boston Globe reported.
Peterson said the error resulted from an effort to consolidate lists of applicants using a technique recommended by email marking service provider MailChimp.
"However, there is also an [apparently] undocumented side-effect ... it replaced one line, in small print, at the bottom of the email, after we had already [extensively] drafted, reviewed, and approved the text of the email itself," Peterson wrote on the school's admissions office blog. "We never even knew."
"My guess is that overall a very small number of our current applicants even noticed this," Peterson wrote. "But any number of people getting this kind of mixed signal is too many."
It was not clear Wednesday how many students had received the erroneous message.