When completing the FERPA Release Authorization that’s part of your college application, you’re faced with a choice regarding your right to access your letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors.
FERPA sounds like some sort of terrible communicable disease, but it’s not.
It’s an acronym for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which (amongst other things) allows you to “review recommendations and accompanying forms if you are age 18 or older or upon enrollment at a postsecondary institution provided that institution saves the documents.” Click here if you want to learn more about FERPA.
The choice isn’t really a choice.
If you want college admissions officers to take your recommendations seriously, you need to waive your FERPA rights. That is, you need to say you’re giving up your right to view these documents.
Here’s what the Common Application has to say about why you should waive your right of access:
“Waiving your right lets colleges know that you will never try to read your recommendations. That in turn reassures colleges that your recommenders have provided support that is candid and truthful.”
Colleges want to trust that your teachers and guidance counselor are free to fully express their perspectives on you without worrying about parental pressure or possible reprisal.
Keep in mind that “if you choose not to waive your right, some recommenders may decline your request, and some colleges may disregard recommendations submitted on your behalf.”
So wave goodbye to those rights.
Here’s something else that’s important. . . .
Change to Common Application FERPA Waiver of Access – 2015-2016
It used to be that you couldn’t change your waiver selection once you made it, but the Common Application has changed its policy because a lot of students refused to waive their rights without fully realizing the implications of their decisions or without understanding the policies at their high school.
Starting in the 2015-2016 admissions cycle, you can change your FERPA selection prior to the submission of your recommendations and application.
You can make the change yourself if you’re using the Common Application system for recommendations.
Talk to your counselor about submitting a help ticket if you’re using Naviance eDocs and have already matched your Common Application in your Family Connections account.