As if applying and getting in to college weren't challenging enough, the law can even stand in your way.

Yes, there is a federal law, commonly known as FERPA (short for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), intended to protect student information from prying eyes, that could, if you are not diligent, actually keep school records out of the hands of college admissions officers.

As silly as it may seem, even though you are applying to colleges, your high school cannot send transcripts or reports to those very same colleges unless you waive your right of privacy under FERPA.

Do you have to waive your rights? No, of course not. Then again, you do not have to go to college, either! [Pretty soon, you'll need to consult with an attorney before submitting the Common App. If you cannot afford an attorney, well, too bad. College Board will find a way to charge you a fee, anyway! 1/2 LOL]

Many high schools will have you sign their own FERPA release. Colleges that use their own, proprietary applications often provide the FERPA waiver form as part of the application process.

On the Common App, you need to log on and complete the FERPA waiver before you attempt to submit your application. Once accomplished, this authorization will permit your high school to release records to colleges, including transcripts, Guidance reports, and teacher recommendations. This should be done (and can ONLY be done) AFTER you complete the EDUCATION section of the Common App.

Access and sign the FERPA release as follows:

1. Log on to Common App

2. Click on the My Colleges tab

3. Click on the first college listed 

4. Click on Assign Recommenders

5. Under FERPA Release Authorization, click on the highlighted link, release authorization

6. Check off that box next to "I have fully read and understood..."and press Continue

7. Check box next to "I authorize every school... to release..."

8. Click the circle next to "I waive my right to review..."

9. Check the box next to "I understand that my waiver. . ."

10. Type your full name in the box next to Signature

11. Click Save

Done! You only have to sign the FERPA waiver once (unlike those annoying Supplements, where every college asks you the same inane questions, ad nauseum, and then complains that they have too much reading to do. Which part of "common" don't they understand?).

College applications may seem like little more than filling in the blanks. To some extent, that is true. Be careful, though. There are nuances and subtleties that require a certain finesse. Particularly so in an admissions environment that, with each passing year, seems to become increasingly competitive and (how is this even possible?) all the more highly selective.

Don't just get your college application done. GET IT DONE CORRECTLY!

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