I guess I am just being curious, but I was wondering whether college applications are kept or saved (i.e common app) by the institutions you applied to? I assume that if you are accepted they are pretty much kept until you graduate. But what happens to the application materials of people who have not being accepted? All those applications are kept for some period of time and then disposed? Thanks!

  • Why would they keep any of it?
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 1:57
  • 3
    @JonCuster: I can think of lots of reasons. Audits to see if admission procedures were correctly followed. Statistics on the applicant pool. Analysis of factors related to applicant success. Generic legal record-keeping requirements. And, in the era of electronic records, the simple fact that deleting data requires more work than keeping it. Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 16:47
  • And keeping all those records, likely with personally-identifiable information, is a huge risk as well. You run all the statistics you want, and then throw the records away. Frankly, the last thing the university wants to do is produce the last 10 years of applications in response to a law suit...
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 18:28
  • I don’t know about unsuccessful undergraduate applications, but my (US public) university definitely retains successful application data for at least as long as the student is enrolled, and my department retains unsuccessful successful graduate application data for at least five years.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 13:47

1 Answer 1


This would depend on many things, including the laws of the country in which the University is situated. I assume that in some places it is mandatory and others forbidden. In those places without such laws it probably is determined locally by the University itself.

I believe that in the US, many, if not most, college applications now are done electronically through an agency or organization with the applicant determining who can obtain the materials. For example, see https://www.commonapp.org. In such a case, the organization likely retains the materials, subject to the law, of course.

If you have a specific worry, about a specific University, you could ask them and get the correct answer, of course.

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