Do graduate schools care if letters are confidential or not? In general, graduate programs prefer confidential letters. Admissions officials say that it displays more confidence on the part of the applicant if letters are "confidential" (meaning you, the applicant cannot see the letter). The Letter Service is required to indicate on the letter if it is confidential or non-confidential.
When should I approach letter writers? What if I plan to take some time off before I go to graduate school? Professors and supervisors are generally pleased to write on your behalf; however, they are usually involved in many activities. Faculty are especially busy during the months of November and December. Be considerate of your letter writers’ time and approach them at least two months before you need the letter. If you plan to take some time off before going to graduate school, don’t wait until you want to apply to graduate school to ask for letters. Your professors could be on sabbatical, or you may not be fresh in their minds anymore. So, ask professors for a "general" letter of recommendation before you leave Cal and place their letters in a safe place, like the Career Center’s Letter Service. When you are ready to apply to graduate school, contact professors again, and ask them to update your letters.