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J Grad Med Educ. 2014 Jun;6(2):292-5. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-13-00179.1.

A multicenter study of the family educational rights and privacy act and the standardized letter of recommendation: impact on emergency medicine residency applicant and faculty behaviors.



Residency applicants have the right to see letters of recommendation written on their behalf. It is not known whether applicants are affected by waiving this right.


Our multicenter study assessed how frequently residency applicants waived their FERPA rights to view their letters of recommendation, and whether this affected the ratings they were given by faculty.


We reviewed all ERAS-submitted letters of recommendation to 14 ACGME-accredited programs in 2006-2007. We collected ERAS ID, program name, FERPA declaration, standardized letter of recommendation (SLOR) use, and SLOR Global Assessment ranking. The percentage of applicants who waived their FERPA rights was determined. Chi-square tests of independence assessed whether applicants' decision to waive their FERPA rights was associated with their SLOR Global Assessment.


We examined 1776 applications containing 6424 letters of recommendations. Of 2736 letters that specified a Global Assessment, 2550 (93%) applicants waived their FERPA rights, while 186 did not. Of the applicants who chose not to waive their rights, 45.6% received a ranking of Outstanding, 35.5% Excellent, 18.3% Very Good, and 1.6% Good. Of applicants who waived their FERPA rights, 35.1% received a ranking of Outstanding, 49.6% Excellent, 13.7% Very Good, and 1.6% Good. Applicants who did not waive their FERPA rights were more likely to receive an Outstanding Assessment (P  =  .003).


The majority (93%) of residency applicants waived their FERPA rights. Those who did not waive their rights had a statistically higher chance of receiving an Outstanding Assessment than those who did.

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