Although future Penn students are only a day away from viewing their regular decision results, the Admissions Office has been busy accommodating the enormous volume of FERPA requests submitted by current students.
After a group of Stanford students discovered a way to access admissions records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, students at colleges across the country — including Penn — have been submitting requests to view their files. Admissions offices are legally required to provide access within 45 days. For students who requested their admissions files early this semester, the 45 days have elapsed.
Following a large uptick in FERPA requests, Yale Law School has deleted admissions evaluation data for enrolled students, reverting to an old policy of deleting numerical scoring data, as well as the associated identities, after the annual admissions cycle.
“Recent FERPA requests prompted us to look at our record-keeping practices, and the decision was made to revert to our previous practice, which was to discard evaluation records after they had fulfilled their intended purpose,” Yale Law School Associate Dean Asha Rangappa said in an email in a Yale Daily News Article.
Stanford has also returned to a policy of deleting its admissions files, but are responding to FERPA requests with all records available at the time the request was made.
Penn has not moved to delete its digital admissions files.
When students submit a request, they are invited to arrange an appointment to come to the Admissions Office and view their files electronically during a 30-minute time window. Nursing freshman Delaney Jenkins, who viewed her files on March 6, was underwhelmed at the amount of information she was able to see.
“It wasn’t really much in terms of quality of information that was there,” Jenkins said. “I wish I had seen more.”
When Jenkins arrived at the Admissions Office, she was given a paper with directions and access to a computer. Although she had waived her right to view her teacher recommendations during the application process, a step taken by many students when applying online, she was able to view her Common Application and essays.
The Admissions Office provided Jenkins with a spreadsheet containing numbers that the Admissions Office had used to weigh various parts of her application — but no information about the meaning of the numbers was provided. “I could see the numbers but I didn’t understand what they meant,” Jenkins said.
She was also able to view around three or four simple comments that admissions officers had made about her essays. “They were really basic,” she said. “It wasn’t anything that I hadn’t expected to see.”
However, Jenkins was unable to see another three or four comments that had been made about her application. FERPA only requires admissions offices to provide students with individual information about their application, so Penn chooses to redact all comments referencing other students or specific school groups. For Jenkins, roughly half of her feedback dealt with information involving others.
Overall, Jenkins felt that viewing her files was not as informative as she had hoped. “I feel like it wasn’t really worth seeing,” she said.
At Penn, over 240 requests have been received since January. Before the discovery of the Stanford students, the Admissions Office received roughly five requests per year.
Earlier in the semester, the Admissions Office was struggling to manage the large number of requests. However, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda believes that the Admissions Office is now better prepared to meet the challenge.
“I think we have a good process in place, we’re giving individuals an opportunity to take a look at their record,” Furda said. “I think we’re in much better shape now.”
Students who wish to view their admissions files can contact the Admissions Office via email.
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