Online reference forms

Online reference forms are application fields that let you collect detailed information about your applicants from a third party reference. After setting up the reference form, you can include it as a field in  any of your applications. Applicants need only enter the email address and a brief optional note to the reference; their reference will receive an email linking them to your form. Once they submit the reference form, it will appear on the student's application for your review. This article describes the entire online reference process.


The basic reference form includes three fields: first name, last name, and phone number. You could leave the form as-is (that nets you enough information to make a phone call, anyway), but more than likely you'll want to design a customized reference form.

Like applications, online references are made up of three components: headings, text blocks, and fields. Headings and text blocks let you organize and explain the different sections of your reference form.  let you collect information from the reference. There are several field answer types (text, integer, yes/no, etc.) that let you ask different kinds of questions as appropriate.

You can change or update your reference forms at any time. Keep in mind that changes made to reference forms will not affect any reference forms on applications that have already been started. 

After designing your online reference form, you can include it in any of your application forms

Design basics


Add elements

Click the links at the bottom to add a new field, import a field from another reference form, add a heading, or add a text block. Or insert an element between two others by clicking +.

Make a mistake?

Click and drag any element using the arrows to re-arrange the form. Click Edit to change your field (you can't change the field type!) or the trash can to delete it.

Keep or discard changes

Click Save to keep your new element or save changes; click Cancel to discard the new element or any changes you've made.


Preview your application

Want to see how the reference form will appear to those filling it out? Just click the Preview tab.


Headings and text

Simple, really: click to add a heading or text block, enter your text, and save.



New fields

Click Add field to create a new reference field. Fill in the components and options and Save.

Fields include the following components and options:

  • Field name: A very brief summary or description of the information you seek to collect through this field (e.g. "Performance history", "Home address", "Work reference", etc.).
  • Field description: Instructions for completing the field, or a detailed explanation of the information you're seeking from the reference.
  • Answer type: The format of the information you're seeking from the reference—text, yes/no, address, etc. See below for details about each of the different answer types and how to use them. Important: Answer type is not editable—when you choose the type for a field, you cannot change it later!
  • Required: Is this field required to submit the reference form?

Answer types

The different answer types let you collect information from the reference in a variety of ways.


There are two types of Text answers:

  • Essay: Gives the reference a large text-entry area in which to compose or copy-paste an essay-length answer. 
  • Short answer: Creates a 255-character text-entry field that accepts letters, numbers, and punctuation.


Number fields restrict the reference's answer to a numerical value; check the box to allow decimals.

Choose from a list

References choose one option from a list. You have multiple options with this answer type:

  • Custom: Create your own options for the reference to choose from.
  • State/Province: Lets the reference choose from official lists of U.S. States or Canadian Provinces.
  • Country: Lets the reference choose from an official list of Countries.

Multiple answer

These fields let references choose one or more options from a list. For example, you could ask the reference to check off three character traits from a list of ten.

First, enter how many answers the reference may select (he can select up to this amount), and then enter as many option names as you need.


Lets the reference enter a date using Populi's standard date/time field.


Gives the reference two options for an answer. I will let you guess what they are. If you really get stuck, feel free to email Populi support.

Address / Phone number / Email address

Gives the reference forms to fill out for the requested contact info, complete with certain country-specific options (Canadians get to select Province instead of State, for example).

File upload

Lets the reference upload a file (say, a photo or a document) up to 34 MB in size.

Importing fields

Sometimes it's a good idea to import fields from other reference forms—especially fields that ask for standard kinds of information (e.g. degree, contact info, etc.).

Just click Import a field, and then search for any field from any other existing reference form. Select from the results and Save


Now that you've created your online reference form, read about how they work.

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