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What is FERPA?

Last updated September 27, 2023

What is FERPA?

The transition from high school to college comes with a variety of changes. A significant change is that once you’re in college, you have complete control over your educational records and personal information. This information, which was previously controlled by your parents/guardians until you graduated high school, is protected under FERPA. But what is FERPA and how does it keep your educational information private? We break it down for you!

Two college students walking to class, engaged in conversation - What is FERPA?

What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects a student’s educational records. This law gives students and their parents/guardians access to their educational records, the right to make any changes to it, and control over the disclosure of personal information to outside parties. When a student turns 18 or matriculates into college, FERPA rights transfer to them.

How does this impact you?

When you were in high school, your parents had access to your educational records. This means they could call your school and ask for information about things like your attendance, grades, and health records. They could also make updates to your personal information.

Once you’re in college, the information your parents/guardians have access to will significantly change. In order for them to access information about your grades, finances, health records, and more, you will have to provide written consent. If your parents/guardians need to access any of this information and you want to grant them permission, check with your school’s registrar’s office. Under FERPA, parents/guardians can’t call your academic advisor and ask for things such as your previous semester’s grades or call the school’s health center to inquire about treatment you may have received without you providing them written permission.

Check your school’s FERPA policy

Schools must abide by federal guidelines of FERPA, but each may do things a little differently. You can typically find your college’s FERPA policy and guidelines by searching on their website or Googling [your school’s name] + FERPA.

The most common way you’ll interact with your school’s FERPA guidelines is your information being listed in the student directory. Most schools will list student’s information on this directory and only omit it if you opt out. Typically, school directories may list the following information:

  • Name
  • Residence Hall
  • Email
  • Major
  • Enrollment Status
  • Dates Attended

Before choosing to opt out, it’s important to be aware of any unintended consequences. For example, if you are applying for a scholarship and the organization contacts the school to verify your enrollment status, the university will not be able to disclose that information to them. Be sure you fully understand your school’s FERPA policy before making any decisions to have your personal information omitted or hidden.

Have a conversation with your family

Starting college is a huge transition for you and your family! Make sure you have a conversation with them about FERPA and your personal information before you start school. Having ownership over your own information is a small way of learning to make decisions for yourself and enter into adulthood. How much information you want your parents to have access to depends entirely on you and your preferences. This may be a tough conversation to have, as your parents may feel entitled to your information, as they have been for the majority of your life until this point. However, it’s a necessary boundary to set if it’s the best choice for you.

Who do I talk to about FERPA concerns?

FERPA protects your information and who has access to it. If you feel your personal information or educational records were disclosed without your consent or your parents/guardians want access and you do not wish to grant it, start by talking to your academic advisor or your school’s registrar's office to discuss your options.

Have a question around FERPA? Text  #College to 33-55-77 to chat with one of our advisors. If you're using a mobile device, click here to have the text message set up for you!

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