Though the University admissions office keeps records of students' applications, students are not allowed to look at them. This was not always the case.
According to a statement released in 2015, the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education initiated a compliance review into the University’s undergraduate admission process because of two complaints, one made in 2006 and the other 2011. The complaints asserted that two applicants were denied admission to the classes of 2010 and 2015, respectively, on the basis of their race and national origin.
During the OCR’s investigation, current University students were allowed to look at their admissions files. Before the OCR’s investigation, students could not do so.
The compliance review finished in 2015 and the OCR determined that the University did not discriminate against Asian applicants on the basis of race.
“I am very pleased that the OCR has concluded this investigation not only with a finding that Princeton did not discriminate on the basis of race or national origin, but that the University’s holistic review of applicants in pursuit of its compelling interest in diversity meets the standards set by the Supreme Court,” University President Eisgruber explained shortly after the OCR's determination was announced.
University Assistant Vice President for Communications Daniel Day explained that the University’s policy on keeping student applications was different before the OCR’s investigation.
“Our longtime policy has been to dispose of the applications of our students at the end of every academic year,” Day said. “However, for a few years we saved the applications because [the OCR] investigation into admission practices was underway. During that time, students could ask to see the contents of their applications.”
After the investigation was concluded, the University went back to disposing of the applications at the end of each year.
Several students expressed concerns regarding the fact that the University does not allow them to see their admissions files.
“We should be allowed to see our files. When you apply you give the University your private information, so they should be able to show us the files,” Monica Dobrinoiu ’21 said.
“Students should be able to see their information, but they should not be allowed to tell other people,” Xiexin Wang ’21 said. “Admissions could create a contract with the students, before they view their files, to keep the files confidential.”
For the time being, the University will continue to dispose of the admissions files at the end of each academic year.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that “Though the University admissions office keeps records of all admissions files, students are not allowed to look at them.” The University does not maintain admission files of students. The University disposes of admission files at the conclusion of each admission process. Students’ applications – the materials they submitted to Princeton when they applied – are retained by the University as part of each students’ records. But admission files – materials generated by the University during the admission process – are not retained.