college help application confused

The follwing information is found on the college application i'm applying to. it is called the waiver of access form. i'm confused about this.
what does this mean?
If i sign it, does that mean that the college will not read my letters?

what if i don't sign it, what is the disadvantage of that?

what rights am i giving up?

is it better to sign it or not sign it?

can you please try to answer all my questions please

Waiving your right of access is optional; however, regardless of whether or not you waive
your right of access, the completed Waiver of Access form must be given to the person from
whom you are requesting a recommendation.

To the Applicant: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 gives students (persons admitted and enrolled) the
right to inspect letters of recommendation written in support of applications of admission. The law also permits students to
waive that right if they choose, although such a waiver must be voluntary and cannot be a condition of admission, award or

If you wish to waive your right to examine the accompanying letter of recommendation, please sign the waiver below.

I expressly waive any rights that I might have to access this letter of recommendation under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
of 1974, or any other law, regulation or policy.

Basically, this says that according the the FERP Act of 1974, you are able to see your teacher's letters of recommendation, but you are also allowed to decide not to read them. If you sign the form, you'll waive your right (decide NOT to read the form a.k.a., open the envelope). This form sort of a way that colleges can prevent you or anyone from opening the recommendation letters and tampering with its contents (like tweaking it to make it sound better or something). I recommend you sign it. It's much better that way. :D

If you sign it it means you can't read the college's letters about your aplication.

If you don't sign it it means you are keeping your right to inspect the college's paperwork about you if you ever feel the need to do so.

this is the government website explanation of the act. The fourth paragraph is the best explanation of the rights you would give up if you sign.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are "eligible students."


Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student's education records maintained by the school. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it is impossible for parents or eligible students to review the records. Schools may charge a fee for copies.

Parents or eligible students have the right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record setting forth his or her view about the contested information.

Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student's education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):
o School officials with legitimate educational interest;
o Other schools to which a student is transferring;
o Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
o Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
o Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
o Accrediting organizations;
o To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
o Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
o State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.

Schools may disclose, without consent, "directory" information such as a student's name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. However, schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them. Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in a PTA bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school.

For additional information or technical assistance, you may call (202) 260-3887 (voice). Individuals who use TDD may call the Federal Information Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339.

Or you may contact us at the following address:

Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202-5920

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