Andrei Aziz went to celebratory dinners with his parents and friends. He shared with family overseas the news of his acceptance to an elite City University of New York undergraduate and medical school program. And he said yes to an upcoming event for admitted students, looking forward to meeting future classmates and professors.
Last week, his mother appeared anxious as they drove to their Plainview home and he asked her why.
“You didn’t actually get into Sophie Davis,” the Bethpage High School senior recalled his mother telling him. “She told me the dean [of admissions] says he’s sorry.”
Officials with the Sophie Davis Biomedical Education Program, part of CUNY’s School of Medicine, acknowledged Wednesday they had sent Aziz an acceptance via email on March 28 that was intended for another applicant who has the same last name. The other student had received a rejection notice in error.
Aziz, 17, who has wanted to be a physician since he was 11, said he has hesitated to tell friends and teachers what happened.
“It’s humiliating,” Aziz, who boasts top credentials in the competitive world of college admissions: a 104.57 grade-point average, scores of a 2280 on the SAT and 34 on the ACT, and four appearances at Carnegie Hall as a violist with a youth orchestra. “I told people that I got accepted. So, telling them that I got denied now, that it wasn’t really true, is humiliating. It feels like I wasn’t smart enough to get into the program. That it was a reflection on me.”
Maurizio Trevisan, dean of the CUNY School of Medicine, said in an interview that the mix-up — an “unfortunate clerical error” — was a first in the program’s history.
“For 43 years, this has never happened,” he said.
The school maintains a list of student names that each correspond to a computer code, signaling acceptance or rejection, Trevisan said. The codes determine how the names are transposed onto electronic, pre-written letters.
“When they got to Aziz, for some reason they switched the two Azizes, and they both got the other person’s code,” Trevisan said. “There was a mistake, and somebody who was supposed to check did not pick it up.”
The school cannot accept Aziz, who was among 1,000 students to apply to the college and 200 to attend interviews, even though he is “a very good student,” Trevisan said.
“It would have been unfair to the other people who were ranked higher than Mr. Aziz but still didn’t get in,” the medical school dean said.
The Sophie Davis program admits 90 students annually and has an 8 percent acceptance rate. Tuition is about $6,500 annually for the first three years and $38,000 for each of the next four years of medical training.
The accelerated program appeals to high school students by guaranteeing them a spot in medical school, integrating curricula for a bachelor of science and medical degrees in a seven-year period. Students are not required to take the MCAT, the medical school entrance exam, to gain acceptance into the program.
Now Aziz is weighing what to do. Sophie Davis was the only accelerated medical school program to which he had applied.
His options are open: When he believed himself accepted to Sophie Davis, he did not notify any of the other schools that accepted him of his intention to go into the CUNY program.
He said he remains committed to a career as a physician.
“I really want to go to medical school, but after four years of college, I’ll see if my mind changes,” Aziz said. “I don’t think it will.”
“He lost all confidence in the system,” said his mother, Suzana Jevtovic-Aziz. “They’re an educational institution, and they really should be held to a high standard of behavior. I don’t know if they understand what kind of emotional distress they’re inflicting.”
Trevisan was apologetic.
“I am deeply concerned about the stress that the family and the students went through over the mistake,” he said in the interview. “I certainly regret the fact that the mistake was made.”