I requested my admissions records. Here’s why you should too.


Juan Diaz

FERPA was signed into law in 1974 by President Gerald Ford.

My journalism professors throughout my years at St. Edward’s have done the absolute most to ensure I have a rigorous curriculum and opportunities for growth and improvement through this student-run paper. But there is one thing that they cannot give me that I’ve often envied other student journalists for: access to records.

Student journalists attending public universities undoubtedly have the headaches and frustrations that go along with any open records request like a delay in response or redactions.

At least they get to file the request to begin with, though. For our newspaper staff at a private institution, raw data and information will never be sent directly to our inboxes; the university is under no obligation to provide it.

The university does, however, have to comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Students at Stanford University discovered a loophole in FERPA that mandates the school to hand over any personal documents– not just admissions documents– to a student.

Initially, I just wanted more practice requesting documents. And then, I realized that I share the perspective of a student who told the Stanford Daily, “It’s always interesting and useful to get feedback you’re not supposed to get.”

The trend of requesting admissions files at top tier universities caught on in 2015, as many were concerned their legacy status or factors other than their own merit landed them a spot.

Even though St. Edward’s has about a 60 percent higher acceptance rate than these universities, these documents are still of value to you.

For me, this will be an important step in gaining greater self-awareness. I’m curious what they thought of me on paper at just 17. Hopefully, I’ll discover that I’ve changed, and it’ll serve as a useful tool for reflection as I apply for graduate school and jobs. Maybe I’ll find something negative that I can work on during the little time I have left here.

Of course, the documents will also help me analyze how the university conducts the admissions process.

We have an idea of how it functions, as I interviewed the admissions office last spring ahead of the May 1 deadline for students to submit their enrollment deposit.

The office described the admissions process as stated below:

“We evaluate candidates considering a number of factors.  The biggest predictor of future academic success is past success, so we look closely at how our applicants have performed throughout high school.  Have they challenged themselves by taking advanced classes? Have they shown improvement year to year? How are they performing among their peers? We also look at ACT or SAT scores, which, when looked at along with academic performance, can be good indicators of a student’s ability to succeed.

Aside from grades and scores, we’re interested in learning about what applicants can contribute to our community outside of the classroom.  So many of our applicants are already serving their communities and demonstrating leadership on their high school campuses, and we love to see that students have gotten involved with things that they’re passionate about, whether that’s participating in athletics or volunteering for a political campaign.  We also evaluate students’ writing samples and letters of recommendation in an effort to have a more well-rounded understanding of how they might do on our campus. The application essay and teacher recommendations can give us a sense of the student’s character and ability to overcome challenges, which helps to paint a more comprehensive picture of who the student is.

As far as who evaluates applications, each applicant gets read by at least two staff members.  Each Admission Counselor is assigned a geographic territory, and that counselor is responsible for reading all the applications from those high schools.  The counselor will do an initial read and make a recommendation to the Dean or me regarding whether the student should be accepted, waitlisted or denied. We do a second read and, if we agree with the counselor recommendation, the decision is final.  If there isn’t consensus on the decision, the file will get additional reads and we’ll deliberate until we come to a final decision.

One of the benefits of the Admission Counselors being assigned to certain regions and high schools is that they really get to know the schools, which allows them to understand each student’s performance in context.  This ensures that we’re considering not only a student’s performance, but how rigorous the academic environment is, how many resources they have available to them and other variables that play an important role in understanding a student’s ability to succeed.”

If this description of the admissions process isn’t enough for you, request your own file by emailing the following to [email protected].

Pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (20 U.S.C. Sec. 1232g), I write to request access to and a copy of all documents held by the St. Edward’s 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 and all associated content (including without limitation the qualitative and quantitative assessments of any ‘readers,’ demographics data, interview records) ; any emails, notes, memoranda, video, audio or other documentary material maintained by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

FERPA prohibits the imposition of a fee to review documents (per 34 CFR Sec. 99.11(b)).

If you choose to redact any portion of any documents responsive to this request, please provide a written explanation for the redaction, including a reference to the specific statutory exemption(s) upon which you rely. Also, please provide all segregable portions of otherwise exempt material. I understand that I may have previously waived FERPA rights pertaining to recommendations provided through the Common Application. Be advised that, if selected, this waiver pertains solely to recommendations provided through the Common Application system.

As per 34 CFR Sec. 99.10(b), these records must be made available for my inspection within 45 days of this request.

I look forward to receiving a full response within 45 calendar days.