How do online references work?

Online references let a third party answer questions and submit comments about an applicant. After you design a reference form, here's how you'll use them in your application processes.

Online Reference FERPA waiver


Before using the reference form features, go to Admissions > Settings > Other Settings and fill in the Online Reference FERPA Waiver fields. FERPA 99.12 describes the limitations that exist on the student's right to inspect and review records. This section of FERPA allows an institution to withhold letters of reference regarding the student's admission from the student if the student has waived his/her right of review.

When the student fills in the reference information on your school's application, he'll be asked whether he wishes to waive his right to review this reference. The Online Reference FERPA Waiver settings let you enter instructions and options for the student to consider.

  • The setting consists of:
    • A text field that you'll use to explain the student's options.
    • Text fields for the Yes and No options.
  • In the text field, it would be helpful to reference the specific FERPA regulations. Many other schools have had to do something similar and you should be able to find other examples with a web search for, say, FERPA and Letters of Recommendation.
  • Your Yes/No answer options should contain—at minimum—the words "I waive my right..." or "I do not waive my right...".
  • Of course, make sure to click Save Settings when you're done!

Adding the reference form to an application


Online reference forms are added as application fields:

  1. Add a new field to the application.
  2. Enter a name and description.
  3. Select Online reference as the answer type. Then select the specific reference form you wish to use.
  4. Click Save when you're finished.

After you save the form, the reference field will appear on applications started after that point (it will not be added to any currently in-progress applications).

The applicant fills out the field on the application

When the applicant comes to this field on her application, she'll enter the email address for her reference person (and maybe an optional note). Once she presses Send...

Populi emails the person a link to the reference form


If you are using the Online Reference FERPA Waiver, the reference person will see a note about the student's choice at the top of the reference form.

When the reference fills it out, it shows up as a Submitted field on the application


Once the reference has been submitted, there'll be a notification on the Admissions Dashboard.

You process the field


Now you process it as you would any other submitted field: you can accept it, reject it, etc.

Fixing mistakes

If you need to change anything about the reference, you can do so at any time.

  1. Go to the student's application and click the name of the online reference field.
  2. Click edit this reponse.
  3. Make your changes—you can edit the email address or the message.
  4. When you're done, click Save under the message area.
  5. To resend the invitation, click delete response; you (or the applicant) can then enter a new email address and note.
  6. Click Done in the application field dialog. You can wait until the application is submitted to resend the reference invitation, or click Send invitation now.

Who can see the reference form?

Here are the people who can see the form (and when):

  • After an online reference is submitted, it can be viewed by anyone with the Admissions, Admissions Admin, Registrar, or Academic Admin roles.
  • The applicant never gets to see the reference—only whether or not the reference person has submitted it yet. The applicant doesn't get to see the reference even after he's accepted and given the Student role. (This is true regardless of the applicant's choice on the FERPA waiver question.)
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  • 0
    Jennifer Cake

    Is the reference able to see whether or not the applicant has waived their rights to access when the form is sent to them? 

  • 0
    Brendan O'Donnell

    Jennifer Cake, Yes, they are. A notice about the student's choice displays at the top of the reference form in Populi. We're also thinking about sticking a note about that in the email that's sent to the reference.

  • 0
    Remy Lehner

    Is there a way I can search references?  I would like to see all of the references that came in. 

  • 0
    Remy Lehner

    When the applicant types in the wrong email address on the application, how can we send the reference at a later date?

  • 0
    Brendan O'Donnell

    Remy Lehner: If the applicant types the wrong address:

    1. Click the reference field on the application to open the dialog.
    2. Under the email address (Emailed to), click Delete this reference.
    3. That clears out the field; you (or the applicant) can now enter the correct address.

    As for searching references, the closest thing I can offer you there is the Applications > Fields report: include Field Type is Online reference in the report filter to see links to the applications with those references.

  • 0
    Remy Lehner

    Ok. I wish there was a more efficient way to search references. Too many fields appear in this search.

    Thank you. 

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