Preparing an Academic Reference Letter

Education, UCAS

14th December 2020

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After long hours of grafting, you have written and re-written that application essay, the personal statement is complete, and there is just one final part before you can press ‘submit’ on your course application. The reference letters. Guidance for reference letters can often be lacking and, in more cases than not, directed towards employment opportunities rather than educational pursuits. As confusing as this process is for students, this can also be confusing for your referee. Employers can often be reluctant to provide a reference letter due to uncertainty of what to write. This is where we come in. Our expert team is experienced in delivering model reference letters that tick all the boxes and hit each of the key criteria that universities are looking for. It is important to note that not all programme applications will require reference letters, but most Master’s and PhD level courses will ask for two, as well as some undergraduate courses. Check your application details to see what is required for your programme.

So, why do universities ask for reference letters and why is it so important to get them right? Universities rely on reference letters to back up the claims made in your personal statement and vocational history and, more importantly, attest to the academic or professional attributes that make you well-suited to university life. Each letter is fundamentally important to get right because it provides insight into how you are as a person and your general working attitude from someone who has worked closely with you. This person is opportunely suited to vouch for you and the reference letter is evidence of this.

When we create a model reference letter for our clients, we will look through all of the unique information that you provide us with so that, first and foremost, the reference letter is tailored to your individual circumstances, experience and referee. Within this, we will look to include the relationship between the referee and yourself, cover key accomplishments in your duties or academic endeavours and offer an endorsement for your character. This can make reference letters a particular challenge for international students as a language barrier across geographical regions can make conveying the more intricate demands of the letter more complex. Accordingly, we can work with you to formulate a letter that combines you and your referee’s recommendations with a high-level of elocution and flair.

Application teams are looking for key attributes and at Oxbridge Personal Statements we’re experienced at honing in on these skills to target your experience towards a specific course or PhD opportunity. Who you choose to sign off your reference letter depends on the level of education and the academic sector that you are interested in. Usually, the referee will be an academic supervisor from your undergraduate study or a previous employer.

The reference letter is the ultimate external perspective to show application teams why they should welcome you into their alumni. Like the personal statement, it holds the potential to pull you from an impressive portfolio of grades to an enthusiastic and ideal academic candidate. If you’d like help formulating a reference letter to help showcase what makes you exceptional, then please get in touch with our team.