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Northwestern University

Confidentiality and Student Records

What is FERPA and why should you care?

FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

This federal law protects the privacy of your educational records. FERPA, among other protections, restricts who can view your academic records, including advising notes. FERPA also restricts whom your College Adviser can speak with regarding information contained in your records.

Who gets to know?

You have the right to review the contents of your file. Certain other individuals can see your file and can be consulted regarding issues raised during your advising meeting or over email with your adviser. These are individuals with a “legitimate educational interest,” and may include such people as the WCAS Dean, Associate Dean, and Assistant Deans, and other official College advisers.

Who can't know?

No one else can see your file or be consulted regarding specific issues raised during your advising meeting or over email with your adviser—UNLESS you have first given your written permission (or unless you are kept anonymous). This includes your parents or guardian and other faculty. To give permission you must fill out a written form. You can download the consent form from the Registrar's website or get a copy at the Weinberg Office of Undergraduate Studies and Advising.

Wait! There are exceptions

Occasionally, circumstances create a need to know--for example, if your College Adviser has reason to believe that you may be in physical danger, or may hurt yourself or someone else, or if you disclose an incident of sexual harassment. Your College Adviser then may have an obligation to notify others at Northwestern (e.g., CAPS, the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance, the Dean of Student Affairs).

If you are looking for a more confidential conversation on campus, you can call one of the following.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list.

For additional information on Northwestern's FERPA policy, consult the Office of the Registrar's website.

Posted 1/19/06; last update 8/22/23

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