Letter Service - Confidential/Non-Confidential

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 gives you the right to request confidential or non-confidential letters.

Confidential means that you waive your right to see the letter. The Letter Service cannot show the letter to you or advise you of its contents. The Letter Service will maintain the confidentiality of a letter for the life of your file.

Non-Confidential means that you retain your right to see the letter. The Letter Service will provide an unofficial copy to you at your request.

There are several factors that you should take into consideration when making your decision to waive or retain your right of access: the preference of the letter writer, the confidence you have in the letter writer, and the preference of the institutions receiving the recommendation. It is important that you discuss this issue with your letter writers. Once you waive your right of access to the letter, the Career Center staff cannot interpret the content nor apprise you of the nature of the recommendation. Once we have received a letter, you cannot change its confidential or non-confidential status.

Each time you ask for a recommendation, you must inform the writer of its confidentiality status. Forward your signed waiver directly to your writer so he/she can include it when sending the letter to our office. Your signed waiver must always accompany a  non-confidential letter in order for us to accept it. If you deliver a non-confidential letter for your own account, the letter and waiver must be in a sealed envelope and signed across the seal by the writer.

Prior to August 1, 2001, University of California policy precluded our informing recipients of your letters whether or not you waived your right to read them. However, all letters received after August 1, 2001 will indicate confidential or non-confidential status. When we send your letters, each letter will be clearly marked confidential or non-confidential.


How do I obtain a copy of a non-confidential letter?

There are two ways to receive an "unofficial" copy of a non-confidential letter:

  • By Mail – You must request it by sending an email to letter@berkeley.edu. Be sure to include the following information: your full name, the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number or your Career Center ID, the name of the letter writer whose letter you wish to read, and your mailing address.
  • In Person - You can come to our office in person during business hours with your photo ID to pick it up.

The first unofficial copy of each letter is free; any additional copies are $1.00 each.


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