After the high-profile and high-stakes Harvard admissions trial released a slew of well-kept secrets detailing how the College evaluates applicants, the mystery surrounding our admissions files has finally begun to unfurl.
If you're anything like me, you have a lot of questions — questions like, What does my admissions file say? What score did admissions officers give me for my extracurriculars? My personal traits? Do I have "humor and grit," like my mother says I do?
These questions don’t have to go unanswered. Under a federal law known as the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, students have the right to schedule an appointment to view their admissions file in person. Harvard doesn’t exactly publicize this process, so I've decided to share my experience to help satisfy your curiosity. Here are the steps I took to view my file.
Note: I accessed my admissions file in December 2017. Inquire about any changes to this process at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Registrar's Office.
1. Fill out the Admissions File Viewing Request Form.
This form can be accessed here. I encourage you to complete this form early as the office can take up to 45 days to schedule your appointment. Keep in mind: if you waived the right to view your recommendation letters when you applied to Harvard, you cannot ask to view them now.
2. Send the file in an email to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Registrar Office.
Attach the file to an email to email@example.com. I recommend stating within the body of the email that you are making a "FERPA access request." You may also ask for access to all documents held by the Harvard University Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, including “without limitation a complete copy of any admissions records kept in my name in any and all university offices, including the Undergraduate Admission Workcard and all associated content (including without limitation the qualitative and quantitative assessments of any 'readers,' demographics data, interview records); any e-mails, notes, memoranda, video, audio, or other documentary material maintained by the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.”
3. Come to your appointment with a pen and paper.
Once you get to the admissions office, you'll have 30 minutes max to review your file. There's a possibility the FAS Registrar Office will not permit you to take photographs of your admissions file (though at least one student got away with it). But you will be allowed to take notes on your admissions file.
Curious about the weird numbers and markings you see? Documents unearthed during the lawsuit can tell you what they mean. Check out The Crimson's explainer of the admissions process to learn more.
Some may encourage you to access your file while others may stress not to. Ultimately, the decision and responsibility is up to you. As for me, viewing my admissions file definitely helped quell some of my uncertainty about whether I belonged on campus.
Overall, though, I don't think I learned much.