The Black Box Of College Admissions Cracked Open?

Admissions and FERPAWhat goes on behind the closed doors of admissions offices has mystified students, parents, school counselors, and the media for years. The holistic process of college admissions is like a black box where applications go in and decisions come out, but many times there’s no rhyme or reason to the results. According to an article from The New York Times, a group of students at Stanford think they’ve cracked the code. Through the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), students have the right to access their educational records. An activist group, The Fountain Hopper, is encouraging Stanford students to request their files. Students making this request received many pages of records related to their courses and student life at Stanford, along with their admissions applications and comments from reviewers. 


For those students considering trying this at other schools, your rights are only covered at the school you are attending. So, you’re out of luck getting any applications and comments from schools you were rejected from. According to responses from school counselors and college admissions officers in a Facebook group, this is not the first time students realized they could make these requests under FERPA. They also cautioned not to get too excited, many schools do not keep emails, notes, and interview write-ups related to their admissions discussions. Some schools shred admissions files each fall, when the freshmen class comes to campus. 


If your student is interested in getting their student file (and application records), below is language that The Fountain Hopper recommended to Stanford students. This is the “politer” version of how to request your records and, of course, substitute Stanford with your college’s name. Good luck and let us know what happens.


Hello! This is a FERPA access request. I am requesting access to all documents held by the Stanford University Office of Undergraduate Admission, including without limitation a complete copy of any admissions records kept in my name in any and all university offices, including the Undergraduate Admission Workcard and all associated content (including without limitation the qualitative and quantitative assessments of any ‘readers,’ demographics data, interview records) ; any e-mails, notes, memoranda, video, audio, or other documentary material maintained by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. I look forward to receiving access to these documents within 45 calendar days. 

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