Recommenders & FERPA
This process should take approximately 10 – 25 minutes.
Items marked with a red asterisk * are required. Students are not required to complete items that do not have the red asterisk.
In this section, you will:
- Understand the waiver and decide whether to waive your FERPA rights
- Understand the role of in admissions
This is an example of the Recommenders & FERPA page of Common App.
In this video, we discuss the FERPA waiver. FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This FERPA form must be completed before you can access the Letters of Recommendation section of Common App. The purpose of this video is to explain the purpose of the FERPA Release and your options in completing this form. This video should take approximately 3 minutes.
In this video, we discuss the Letters of Recommendation section of Common App. Different high schools have different procedures for sending letters of recommendation to colleges. The purpose of this video is to help you learn if a college requires letters of recommendation, how many to send, and which teachers to ask. Finally, we provide tips for how to ask your teacher for letters of recommendation. This video should take approximately 5 minutes.
Tips & Reminders
- If you “waive your right to review all recommendations and supporting documents,” it means that your teacher’s letter of recommendation will remain a private letter of communication to the college. You will not know what the recommender said about you.
- Although it is ultimately your decision, many professional counselors suggest that students waive their right to review recommendations and supporting documents.
- Some colleges do not require or accept letters of recommendation from teachers. To find out if a college requires or accepts letters of recommendation, go to the My Colleges tab of Common App, click on the college name on the left, and scroll down the page to find Recommendations.
- Different high schools use different electronic platforms to submit letters of recommendation to the colleges. Your high school might not use Common App to send recommendations to colleges. Ask your high school counselor how your school handles letters of recommendation.
- Your school might have specific procedures for inviting recommenders. Ask your high school counselor if your school has a special procedure for requesting letters of recommendation.
- Sometimes teachers will ask students to create a “brag sheet,” which is a document with information about the student that a teacher can use to write a letter of recommendation. Learn about the type of information a teacher might find useful with this guide from Johns Hopkins University – Brag Sheet Questions for Teachers.
FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Before you can access the section of Common App related to Letters of Recommendation, you must complete the FERPA Release Authorization process. Under FERPA, when you ultimately attend a specific college, you have the right to read your application to that college, including any letters of recommendation written for you by teachers or others. The Release Authorization is asking whether you want to waive this right. Waiving your FERPA right would mean that once a letter of recommendation is sent to a college, you have no right to view it. That letter of recommendation will remain a private communication between the letter writer and the college.
Many colleges require applicants to submit one or two letters of recommendation from teachers as part of their application. The purpose of the letter is to provide a college or university the opportunity to learn more about you, the type of student you are, and how you contribute in the classroom, school, or community. Many colleges also request a letter of recommendation from your high school counselor. The counselor’s recommendation is used to understand your school and its curriculum and how you as a student fit into the school community. Many colleges also accept recommendations from “other” recommenders, which can include an employer, a coach, or another person who knows you well and can speak to your accomplishments or character. Each college where you will apply states how many letters of recommendation they require. Be sure to go through these requirements and identify the people who will provide the letters of recommendation. Some high schools use Common App to manage their recommendation process while other high schools use different platforms such as SCOIR, Parchment, or Naviance. Talk to your high school counselor to learn how your school handles the recommendation process and be sure to follow that process.