I hope this is not news to you, parents and students: You will not be allowed to read the letters of recommendation your teachers write for you.
FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It’s a law that gives you control over what pieces of your educational record high schools and colleges retain and share. However, most college application platforms, including the Common Application, the Coalition Application and many individual college applications, will ask you – actually they’ll require you – to waive your FERPA rights.
The simple benefit of waiving FERPA is that it will allow your high school to send your transcript to colleges to which you apply. However, waiving FERPA also tells colleges that you won’t expect to see the letters of recommendation that your teachers and counselors write about you.
While this seems painful and you might feel the urge NOT to waive this right, the truth is that most teachers and schools WILL NOT submit letters of recommendation without your waiving your right to see them. Colleges need to know that your teachers and your school counselor can be perfectly candid and truthful in describing your performance and their experiences having had you in their classes.
Above is a quick video showing you HOW to waive your FERPA rights in the Common Application. And here’s the Common App’s explanation of what you are doing when you sign this waiver.
Fear not! The best way to deal with not being allowed to read your teacher recommendations is to ask teachers if they feel comfortable writing a letter of recommendation for you for your college applications. Most teachers won’t agree to do it if they don’t have great things to say about you!
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Happy College Application time!