Students, alumni get a rare glimpse at how their applications were viewed

More than 430 students and alumni have asked to review their admission records under a federal law providing students the right to see their educational records.

Among the admission records that can be reviewed are the interview reports by members of the Alumni Schools Committee. If a student or alum requests to see his or her admission file, the University notifies the Schools Committee interviewer, noting that the name and personally identifying information will be redacted but that the student may remember the interviewer.

Some alumni intervewers have contacted the Office of Admission with concerns about the release of what had been expected to be confidential reports. Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye said the admission office will review the interviewing process, including alumni concerns, but that it was too early to tell if the process will be changed.

Students and alumni began filing requests for their admission files across the country after a group of Stanford students made public in mid-January their successful attempt to review their records under the 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Only enrolled students and alumni are able to view their records — not unsuccessful applicants or those who chose to enroll elsewhere.

The University’s longstanding policy had been to destroy each year’s admission materials after the admission season was over, Rapelye said. But for the last eight years, records have been saved while Princeton has been the subject of an ongoing review by the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The review was triggered by an unsuccessful applicant for admission who claimed discrimination against Asian Americans.

“When the investigation is over, we will return to the policy of destroying files at the end of the season,” Rapelye said.

One student who reviewed her file said the packet included a card with information on her high school, parents’ occupations, grades, SAT scores, extracurricular activities, comments from two admission-office readers, summaries of her essays, and her placement into one of four categories: High Priority, Strong Interest, Only If Room, and Unlikely. Also included was the alumni interviewer’s report.

The admission committee’s discussion and voting on an applicant are not recorded and are not part of a student’s admission file, Rapelye said.

“The question we’ve all had is to what end” students want to see their admission file, she said. “What really matters is what you do with this opportunity once you get here.”