Credentials File FAQs
- WHAT IS A CREDENTIALS FILE?
It is a collection of materials used to support you in your search for post-baccalaureate employment or admission to graduate or professional school. The file generally consists of a resume, unofficial transcript and letters of recommendation.
- WHY DO I HAVE TO HAVE A CREDENTIALS FILE?
You don't; however, it is convenient for both you and employers to have everything in one place. It can be used to support your application for employment opportunities or graduate/professional school. It is also helpful to the authors of your reference letters because they only need to write one letter even though you may be making multiple applications. Should you decide that you do not wish to open a credentials file through our office, consider the importance of collecting similar materials for your personal file.
- WHEN CAN I ESTABLISH MY FILE?
Any student who is about to graduate or complete a certification program is eligible for the credentials file service. Try to give yourself at least two months to get your materials together before actually beginning your search for employment or admission to graduate school.
- WHAT DOES A CREDENTIALS FILE CONTAIN?
- RESUME (optional)
The resume is used as the first page of your credentials. Because it is a summary of your background, experiences and qualifications, it provides a frame of reference for the rest of the information in your file. It is important to have a copy of your resume in your file even though in most cases you already will have provided a resume to the person who is considering your application. The Career Development Office offers a series of informational handouts and books about resume writing in addition to reviewing drafts of your resume.
- UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT (optional)
If your grades are supportive of your candidacy, you may wish to include an unofficial copy of your transcript from Fredonia (one that does not carry the university seal) as a part of your credentials file. The request to include the unofficial transcript must be made on the Request for Unofficial Fredonia Transcript form with your signature and submitted to our office. Undergraduate transcripts will be automatically updated in your file each semester until the final degree transcript is received. Graduate transcripts, however, must be requested by you after each semester you attend. The unofficial transcript is usually sufficient for screening purposes. If an official transcript is required, you must obtain it from the Office of the Registrar. Legally, transcripts from institutions other than Fredonia cannot be included in the credentials file.
- REFERENCE LETTERS
For each person you ask to write a letter of recommendation, you must decide whether you want a confidential or a non-confidential letter. Be sure to read the "Note to the Registrant" on the back of the Confidential Reference Letter form.
What is a Confidential Reference Letter?
A confidential reference letter is one that is written on the form provided by the Career Development Office with the waiver on the back signed by you. If you decide to ask for a confidential reference letter, the Career Development Office will not be able to give you access to the contents of that particular letter. The CDO staff cannot discuss the specific contents with you or tell you whether or not it is a "good" letter.
Prior to giving a Confidential Reference Letter form to an author, be sure to type in the information on the front of the form and to sign the waiver on the back.
What is a Non-confidential Reference Letter?
A non-confidential reference letter is one that you can read if you show proper identification. There is no form for the non-confidential reference letter. It should be printed on the author's personal or organization letterhead or on plain 8½ " x 11" white paper.
What Should I Consider When Deciding Between Confidential and Non-confidential Letters?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, a federal law which governs educational records, specifies that you have the right to have access to the letters in your file. If you choose to exercise this legal right, you will request a non-confidential letter from the author.
You may also choose to waive this right of access for some or all of the letters in your file by signing the statement on the back of the Confidential Reference Letter form. This choice is offered because some employers, when asked in a study to state a preference, indicated a preference for the confidential letter. Please be aware, however, that when these same employers were presented with candidates' files to screen for interviews, there was no evidence that the confidential or non-confidential status of the reference letters was a factor in the selection of candidates.
Your relationship with the author of the letter will also be an important, and perhaps determining, consideration in your decision to ask for a confidential or a non-confidential letter. Consider how much you know about this person's opinion of your ability to do the type of work for which you are applying.
Note regarding online application systems: If your letters are confidential, we can not scan them into your application if you will be able to read them online. To date, the western New York school application system (wnyric.org), Rochester City Schools, Amherst/Geneseo/Webster Central schools, and Monroe County BOCES have secure sites into which we can scan confidential letters. Please consider your job targets when requesting letters from your authors. You may wish to request non-confidential letters if you will be applying through online systems not listed above.
Please feel free to discuss these issues with a Career Development Office counselor.
Whom Should I Ask to Write Reference Letters for Me?
Anyone who can speak about your abilities related to your present goals is a good person to write a reference letter. Those who have observed your performance are the best references. Appropriate reference writers could include student teaching supervisors and cooperating teachers, faculty members with whom you have developed a rapport, internship supervisors, advisors to student organizations, employment supervisors (whether or not the job is professionally relevant) and your academic advisor. When you ask people to write letters for you, ask if they can write letters that will support you. Tell them about your goals and the type(s) of positions for which you will be applying. It may also be helpful to give them each a copy of your resume.
How Many Letters Should Be in My File?
While the Career Development Office does not recommend a specific number of reference letters, more is not better. A minimum of three and a maximum of six letters is sufficient for most people seeking employment for the first time. Even after several years of employment, you should never have more than 10 letters. It is important to be selective in choosing those people who can most accurately reflect the most relevant aspects of your background, rather than to burden the employer or graduate/professional school with unnecessary paper. If you have graduated and are updating your file, you may wish to add more current reference letters and, at the same time, remove letters that are old and/or no longer relevant to your current goals. The request to remove letters must be in writing, signed and dated.
- OTHER MATERIALS
The materials listed above are those that are photocopied and sent in a professional cover to employers and graduate/professional schools. (The originals remain in the file and are the property of the university.) In addition, your file contains a record of where and when your credentials have been sent, correspondence between you and the CDO, and your Credentials Authorization and Release Form. Teaching candidates may wish to include a copy of the teaching certificate when it becomes available.
WHAT NOT TO INCLUDE
Items such as evaluations, lists of names and addresses of your references, test scores, newspaper clippings, recital programs, thank you letters or notices of awards are not included in the files. These items may be more appropriately presented by you during an interview and/or included in your portfolio. Letters addressed to a specific individual recommending you for a specific position or for a specific graduate institution are also not appropriate for the file. NYSTCE or Praxis score reports cannot be included in the credentials file; they are designed to establish minimum standards, and are not to be used to discriminate between and among candidates (which is the purpose of the credentials file). Pages printed out from TEACH Online (other than the actual teaching certificate) are not acceptable for the file.
- RESUME (optional)
- HOW DO I START MY CREDENTIALS FILE?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, a federal law, specifies that we cannot release the contents of your file without your written permission. To start your file, complete and return a Permanent Record Card and the Credentials Authorization and Release Form. These forms give us that permission.
- HOW CAN I FIND OUT WHAT IS IN MY FILE?
You can log into your FREDNetwork account and view a list of the contents of your file (click on the ACCOUNT tab and then scroll to the bottom of the page). You may also contact the CDO in person, by phone or by mail (not by email) to find out what is in your file.
- WHAT DOES THE SERVICE COST?
There is a charge of $4 per organization when your file is sent.
In emergencies, you can request that your file be sent overnight through an express delivery service; there is $20 fee.
If an employer contacts the CDO to request your file without your knowledge, we will make you aware of this request so that you may make your payment online within 5 business days. If invoicing is required, there will be an additional $10 fee for each organization.
NOTE TO TEACHER CANDIDATES: For an initial scan into an online application site used by multiple school districts (such as WNYRIC or Monroe BOCES), the cost is $20; a subsequent scan into that system will be $4. Scans into single district sites (such as Amherst or Rochester City Schools) are $4.
These fees help us recover some of the costs of this service. There is no charge to establish and maintain your file.
- WHO CAN REQUEST MY FILE?
Only you or the employing organization can legally make the request for your credentials. Graduate/professional schools will generally ask you to make the request. Potential employers may wish to make the request themselves at various points in the selection process, depending on the employer, but most often it is your responsibility to have your credentials sent. Some organizations may refer to credentials as a "placement file" or a "reference file." In any event, before you ask to have your credentials sent, you should have applied to the organization and be certain that they wish to receive your recommendations.
NOTE: It is illegal for us to accept requests from or discuss your file with a helpful parent, spouse or friend. We also cannot legally give you a copy of your file in a sealed envelope to take to an interview if your file contains confidential reference letters.
- WHERE CAN MY FILE BE SENT?
Credentials can be sent to employing organizations, admissions offices of educational institutions and third party organizations assisting you in finding employment. The name of the organization must be included in the request; credentials cannot be forwarded to blind ads or to post office box numbers.
- HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO PROCESS MY REQUEST?
Requests are processed in a maximum of three (3) business days from the day we receive them, most often sooner. If there is a deadline for your application, please note it when making the request.
- HOW DO I REQUEST TO HAVE MY FILE SENT?
Requests to have your file sent should be made online using the Touchnet Marketplace secure site. You will provide all information online, and include your credit card or checking account information for payment.
Requests for sending credentials by mail should include the following information:
- employer's name and title
(for graduate/professional schools, include name of person to receive materials and name of department or office)
- organization name, or name of graduate institution
- street address
- city, state, zip code
To have your credentials scanned into an online application system, please provide the following information:
- Rochester Area Online Web Recruitment provided by Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES: applicant email
- Rochester City School District: applicant email
- Amherst Central School District: applicant email
- WNYRIC Western New York School Application System: applicant ID number
(Note that only certification, letters of recommendation and unofficial transcript will be scanned; documents such as resume, cover letter, etc. must be uploaded by the applicant.)
- employer's name and title
- CAN I MAKE MY REQUEST BY PHONE OR EMAIL?
No. Legal counsel has advised us not to accept requests by phone or email.
- CAN I REQUEST TO HAVE MY CREDENTIALS FAXED OR SCANNED/EMAILED?
Requests for sending by methods other than US Postal Service will be reviewed on a case by case basis. We have your best interests in mind. If an employer requires submission in a particular fashion, we will certainly do so if it maintains the integrity of the Credentials File.
- DO I NEED TO SEND MY COVER LETTER, APPLICATION AND FILE TOGETHER?
Usually you will send a resume and cover letter to the employing organization, and request that your file be sent at whatever point in the process the organization indicates that they would like to receive it. If, however, the organization specifically requires that all of your materials arrive in one envelope, please contact the CDO and we will work with you to make that happen.
- HOW LONG IS MY FILE ACTIVE AFTER I GRADUATE?
The file is the property of the university and is maintained for your use for 30 years from the date of your first degree from SUNY Fredonia. We reserve the right to destroy files that are older than 30 years that have not been active within five years, unless we hear from you by September 1st of the year the file is to be destroyed. File activity includes adding letters of reference, sending the file out, or correspondence regarding file contents.
To maintain and update your file, you may add new materials at any time. Reference letters may be removed by providing the Career Development Office with a signed and dated written request specifying the name of the author whose letter you wish to remove.
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