Waiving your right to view your letters of recommendation
How your letters may be used
The service is available to all Northwestern University undergraduates interested in applying to medical, dental and post-baccalaureate premedical programs. Northwestern University undergraduate alumni are eligible to establish a letter of recommendation file with our office for up to five years from the date of their graduation. All recommendation files are kept active for up to five years from the date they were created.
Students enrolled in the Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies who have not already obtained an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University should contact an NU School of Continuing Studies academic counselor for more information on how to manage and store their letters of recommendation.
Students enrolled in the Northwestern University Graduate School who have not already obtained an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University should contact their individual department or the University Career Services Letters of Recommendation Page for more information on how to manage and store their letters of recommendation. Graduate students are also encouraged to contact their undergraduate institution to see if they have a recommendation file service available for alumni of that institution.
What are your rights?
Under the terms of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), you have the right to access your letters of recommendation unless you choose to waive that right. Waiving access to your letters means you will NOT have the ability to review the letters written on your behalf.
Why should you waive your rights?
Waiving the right to view your letters means that they will only be available for review by the medical schools to which you apply. Admission committees prefer applicants waive their rights to view their letters because they recognize that recommenders tend to write more meaningful letters under these circumstances. It is a common expectation that students be willing to waive the right to view their letters without question.
If you do not wish to waive the right to view your letters, your choice will be clearly documented in the following manner:
- When our office requests your letters from recommenders, they will be expressly notified that you have not waived your right to view their letters and that their comments and observations will be available to you for review if you so choose.
- Additionally, your letter packet will be labeled as “Non-Confidential” and the following statement will appear at the top of the cover page of your letter packet: “This student has NOT waived the right to examine the opinions in this ‘Letters of Recommendation Packet’.”
Our letter service facilitates the gathering, organizing and distribution of letters of recommendation which have been written specifically for the use of applying to medical, dental and post-baccalaureate premedical programs. When your recommenders submit their letters to our office, they are doing so with the understanding that the letters will be used only for those programs.
In order to honor the intent of your letter writers as well as to maintain their expectation of confidentiality, the letters of recommendation submitted to our office on your behalf cannot be used for internships, scholarships or any non-health-related graduate programs. Neither will they be made available for transfer to any other undergraduate pre-medical advising office or department of career services.
If you wish to use a letter of recommendation that has been previously submitted to our office on your behalf, you must contact the recommender directly and request that he/she submit a copy of the recommendation letter to the program of your choice.