What Did They Think Of Me?

Finding out what admissions officials wrote about your college application.


This post is inspired by Hannah Weverka’s excellent “How to Find Out What Several Adults Thought of You When You Were Seventeen: A Practical Guide.” I won’t repeat the how-to steps here — go read her walkthrough if you’re interested in reproducing these steps.

Last week, I sent an e-mail to admissions office at NYU to review and get a copy of my admissions records. Most of it would be familiar to me: the college essays I wrote, my high school transcript, but I was particularly interested in the comments the admissions officer made when they recommended me to be admitted here.

In a sense, it felt kind of narcissistic. I know they admitted me, so what’s the worst thing they could say? As interested as I was in what the comments were, it also represented an opportunity to toy around with requesting records from big unwieldy bureaucracies.

Students have a right to access their admissions records under the U.S. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and so the admissions officer I spoke to was super responsive when I told her what I was looking for. (Saying this makes me sound very smart about all things FOIA, which is not (yet!) the case — for all FERPA-related parts of this experience, I was just following Hannah’s instructions.)

So, what did they say? Well, my two original beliefs (that it wouldn’t be long, and their comments had to be at least mostly positive, because they ultimately admitted me) were right. There really isn’t much at all:

Recs are all supportive — decent ECAS: passionate about writing. Definitely leaning towards admit here.

(Recs = recommendations, ECAS = extra-curricular activities.)

So there you have it! Ultimately, a pretty straightforward process — thanks to Hannah’s how-to guide. One e-mail, one visit to the office, one phone-call to make an appointment to view the files, and one more visit to the office to view and make a copy of the comments.

Ultimately, I’m with Hannah on this one. This is worth doing because it’s not much effort, and you’re well within your rights to do it:

If nothing else, this is worthwhile not just for the result but also for the process: using the law carefully and correctly in order to make something happen that wouldn’t have happened otherwise is, firstly, a surprisingly empowering feeling, and secondly, good practice for the future. If you’re at college right now, I’d recommend it.
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