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Advantage to waiving right of access?


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Hi all,

I am applying to three PhD Psychology programs and 1 PhD CogSci program in California. For all of these applications, I waived my right to access the letters of recommendation accompanying my application. Is there any reason to waive it versus not waive it? Obviously I have already made my decision, but just wanted to get some insight on the advantages either way. It would have been nice to see the letters, but all of my recommenders have assured me that they are submitting very positive letters so I thought it might be a sign of confidence to waive my right.

Thoughts?

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It is generally assumed that you are going to waive your right to see the letters. Doing this allows your letter writers to write openly and honestly about you. If you did not waive your right to view the letters, ad comms could be concerned about the validity of the letters (ex. perhaps they only said nice things about you because they have you in a class next semester and don't want to rock the boat). Waiving your right essentially just instills confidence on the part of the ad comms that the letters reflect the writer's true opinion of you.

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Also, your letter writers can see if you have waived your right to view the letter. One of my letter writers told me that if I didn't waive it, it indicated that I was concerned that he might not write a favorable letter. If that was the case I shouldn't ask him to write one. Although once they've already written it and go to upload it (which I think is when they'd see that you didn't waive it), I'm don't know if they'd change it....but possibly?

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Thanks for the feedback! It is all pretty much what I had previously assumed. There was no reason for me NOT to waive it since all of my recommenders said that they were writing very favourable letters, but I kind of want to see what they wrote :)

Edited by Tolman's Rat
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Oh no!!!

How bad did I mess up by not waiving it? I had no idea about this!

It's hard to say, but the concern isn't as much with your letter writers as the adcoms. I know my letter writers would probably be thrown off if I didn't waive, because it's implied. It's a respect and honor that you asked someone to write your letter; not waiving suggests to them that you don't trust them to write you a good letter.

But again, the big problem is with adcoms. It will question the legitimacy of your letters. Also, it's a red flag because most people will waive, so for anyone who doesn't, it draws their attention to it.

See if for the online apps you can still change the checkbox from not waive to waive! If not, there's not much to do, just hope for the best. Good luck!

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I didn't waive it at first, as I though it made no difference. Then read at several books and almost at every forum on the internet that not waiving is basically throwing the letter to the garbage.

I panicked for about a day, and then wrote to the school asking if it could be changed even though the letter had already arrived. They did.

So, keep calm and email the ad comm :)

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I didn't waive it at first, as I though it made no difference. Then read at several books and almost at every forum on the internet that not waiving is basically throwing the letter to the garbage.

I panicked for about a day, and then wrote to the school asking if it could be changed even though the letter had already arrived. They did.

So, keep calm and email the ad comm :)

I reacted basically the exact same way. Have e-mailed the admissions office at the two schools at which I messed up, and I won't make the same mistake twice.

Thanks for the advice!

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Sorta seems like entrapment doesn't it...? Glad I came to read this thread because I had no idea there was this unspoken blood oath to not waive your rights of access. Jeez.

I agree -- I think it's an example of how "privacy laws" that are supposed to protect us can end up hurting us because of poor implementation. I am assuming that while it would be useful, there is probably something preventing the application forms from stating something like "you have to waive your rights or we won't take your letter as seriously" next to this checkbox!

In addition, not checking this box doesn't help you at all. In the "fine print" at one school, they explained that the Freedom of Information Act (or whatever it's called) allows students to view their own files (including LORs) unless they have waived the right. However, at that school (and perhaps others), you are only considered a student (and thus have a "student file") only AFTER you've accepted their offer. So, if this is practiced at all schools, you can only see the letters if you do get in (and by then it wouldn't be very useful!)

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I did not know about this! (In fact, it sounds quite strange!) Is the waiving of rights primarily for American universities, or does it also apply to Canadian universities?

Also - my references submit their letters online after I've submitted my application. How exactly can I see what they will write? It won't get into my hands at all, unless I ask them to send me a copy before sending it off to the university. Any thoughts?

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Wow, I had no idea that not waiving your rights called the content of your letter into question. All my apps just said my recommenders may not want to submit letters if I didn't waive. I waived them. Then one prof emailed me a copy of my letter and another offered to as well...

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Also - my references submit their letters online after I've submitted my application. How exactly can I see what they will write? It won't get into my hands at all, unless I ask them to send me a copy before sending it off to the university. Any thoughts?

I think technically, once you are a student at the school, you have the right to inspect everything in your student record/file. This includes everything related to your admissions -- anything that went into your official file! So no, it's unlikely you would be able to see the letter before the application season is over, but generally you should waive the right so that you can *never* see it.

I also think this means that even though you waived the right, it doesn't mean that the school isn't allowed to eventually release the letters to you anyways. Someone I know recently graduated and they were given their student file, including admissions related materials (e.g. LORs).

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It does seem like the world of academia is full of these little unspoken rules and like TakeruK and 1Q84 said, I do think it calls privacy rights into question. But at least for now, I guess that's the name of the game. Best of luck to all of you on your apps!

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I didn't read any guidelines and waived mine. Several reasons to waive (quite unrelated to 'academic rules):

1. Why would you want to read what they write? You can't change it. It's better not to know than worry about X or Y detail. Even if they had offered me a look at it through email I wouldn't want to read it!! :unsure:

2. If you asked profs you trust (I did), it shouldn't be a problem. Just in terms of friendship I think mine would be a bit taken aback if I didn't waive my rights. I trust them and I don't want to see the letter.

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I asked the school about this and this is what I was told: "That is an urban legend – a complete myth. The evaluators do not care (nor do they necessarily know) whether you have waived your rights or not. The only difference is whether you’ll be able to view your letters next year (if you are admitted) upon your request to see your file."

Hope this helps.

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I asked the school about this and this is what I was told: "That is an urban legend – a complete myth. The evaluators do not care (nor do they necessarily know) whether you have waived your rights or not. The only difference is whether you’ll be able to view your letters next year (if you are admitted) upon your request to see your file."

Hope this helps.

I don't think that's true across the board. I had a letter writer, who often sits on adcoms, remind me to waive my right. Basically, there aren't any great reasons not to but better to play it safe.

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I dont quite get why not waiving your right should be a problem. I´m sure everyone who lists a recommender has trust in him to write a truthful letter of recommendation (it´s not like you ask for a letter of destruction). Every application that I have completed clearly stated that I could only see them after I was accepted. I´m not quite sure why adcoms would negatively associate a not-waiving, especially because I´m sure that most successful applications want to know what recommenders said that got you into that school. It´s not like you see them in advance.

Anyway, I have ticked "not waving" in one of 7 applications. Should I write the admissions office to change that?

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hi all,

I never even considered anything you all are mentioning. I didn't waive my rights so if I ever needed their recommendation again I'd already have it on file. lol I wouldn't ask someone to write me a letter if I didn't think they would say something nice about me.

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hi all,

I never even considered anything you all are mentioning. I didn't waive my rights so if I ever needed their recommendation again I'd already have it on file. lol I wouldn't ask someone to write me a letter if I didn't think they would say something nice about me.

I'm not too familiar with how grad school works in film, but I think it doesn't work this way in most other fields. Even if a prof gave you a copy of their letter for your records, you can't submit that again in a future application. For most graduate school, fellowship, and academic job applications, they usually want a letter directly from the prof, usually through an electronic means! In addition, not waiving your rights doesn't mean you automatically get to see the letter, as the others said, you have to go through an official process to request to see your files.

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I asked the school about this and this is what I was told: "That is an urban legend – a complete myth. The evaluators do not care (nor do they necessarily know) whether you have waived your rights or not. The only difference is whether you’ll be able to view your letters next year (if you are admitted) upon your request to see your file."

Hope this helps.

Maybe it depends on the field. I know that my advisor, who actually sits on the admissions committee here, straight up told me that they do consider it in psychology.

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