Credentials File Contents
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WHAT TO INCLUDE
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 SUNY 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.
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 statement of 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.
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.
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 from TEACH Online (other than the actual teaching certificate) are not acceptable for the file.