Whenever I hear about family friends or younger relatives who are applying to college, I am always grateful that that part of my life is over; the SAT testing, personal essays, interviews, and mind-numbing pressure to get into a good school are enough to drive a person crazy. But the worst part is that even after you go through this college application hell, you still don’t know why you were accepted or rejected from certain universities — that is, until recently when Stanford students discovered a way to find out what college admissions officers thought about you.
A group of students behind Stanford’s satirical email newsletter, the Fountain Hopper, found a way to access what were previously thought to be confidential admissions files, including everything from how a student’s minority status affected their application to comments by admissions officers and essay critiques. It turns out that a 40-year-old federal policy called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), mandates that a student’s educational record is their own and allows students access to these files. So even though the records may be marked as confidential, as they are legally students’ property, the school must provide students with a copy of them within 45 days of request.
After the Fountain Hopper staff sent a test request to Stanford’s admissions department and received confidential evaluation essays and a numerical rating of their personal qualities, they sent an email to all of their subscribers urging them to do the same. Though curiosity alone is reason enough to send a FERPA request, these Stanford students aim to shed some light on the highly secretive admissions process. Fox News reports that more than 1,000 students on the Palo Alto campus have already sent in requests, and the Fountain Hopper hopes that students will send back their results in order to compile the data and find out how their selective university really addresses diversity in a process that some think is biased against poor minorities.
There is no news yet on how these types of requests have been, or will be, processed by other universities. So far we do know that colleges where you were not admitted are much less likely to respond to FERPA requests. As for me, I have no plans of finding out why I got into my Alma Matter…all that matters is that I got in, and I have no desire to relive the horrific college application process. If you are interested in finding out more about your college’s admissions process, Fountain Hopper offers a suggested email template for FERPA requests. There's the nice one:
And the "I mean business" one, which you can find here.
Image: Stanford University/Facebook