Parker Christensen, a high school senior from Newaygo, Michigan, received a notification from Central Michigan University (CMU) on January 21 informing him that he had been awarded a prestigious full-ride scholarship to the university.
University officials now say that Christensen and 57 other students received the notification in error.
“When I opened up the email saying ‘Congratulations,’ my heart stopped like, I was blown away,” Christensen, 18, who wants to pursue pre-med at CMU, told CNN. “I couldn’t believe that I was part of this group, probably out of like 600 kids that applied for it. It was amazing.”
After he was accepted to CMU in October, Christensen applied for the university’s prestigious Centralis Scholar Award. Recipients are given full tuition and room and board for four years, according to the university’s website. They also receive a $5,000 study away award.
Christensen said he had to submit essays, a creative project in which he chose to paint a picture, his GPA, high school transcripts and recommendation letters. He estimates he spent 48 hours to put together the scholarship application.
This past weekend, he received a notification that he was a recipient of the scholarship.
“I kept rereading it over and over just making sure that I actually got it and it was me,” he said. “And then once I found the form, and I accepted…I was just so proud of myself for all the hard work I did.”
University now offering a full tuition scholarship
But CMU said that notification was sent mistakenly to 58 students. Now, the university says it is reaching out to the impacted students “to make it right” and award them with an amount equivalent to a full-tuition scholarship.
“While testing a new messaging technology over the weekend, CMU staff inadvertently posted a message about the prestigious Centralis Scholar Award that was seen by students who were logged into the system at that time,” the university said in a statement. “The message appeared to indicate the student had received the Centralis Scholarship, when in fact they had not. CMU deeply regrets the disappointment and frustration this mistake caused for students and their families.”
Christensen said he was heartbroken when he was contacted by the university.
“Getting that phone call, my heart sank,” he said. “I was second guessing even going to CMU… I was just angry and disappointed in what they did to me and other 57 other students.”
Now that the school has said it will award those students affected with the equivalent to a full-tuition scholarship, Christensen said “it’s a lot to take in.”
“It’s such an emotional roller coaster. I’ve been up and down, sad and mad and angry and confused,” he said. “I still am now. I don’t know how all this is happening.”
CMU noted that the Centralis Scholar Awards that were inadvertently offered to the 58 students included room and board. The offer the university is extending to these students is equivalent to a full-tuition scholarship but does not include room and board, according to an email from the university.
CNN’s Jennifer Henderson contributed to this report.