UCAS Application References: All You Need to Know

Personal Statements, UCAS

12th December 2023

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Embarking on the journey of higher education often begins with the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) application. References – a document that sheds light on your academic achievements, personal attributes, and potential – are an integral part of this process. In this guide, we will delve into the key aspects of UCAS application references, highlighting some useful insights for both students and referees.

Who Writes Your UCAS References? Choosing Your Referee

If you are currently in or recently finished education, your referee should be someone familiar with your academic performance, and able to provide relevant information about the courses you’re applying for. 

If you have been out of education for a while, some universities may consider an employment reference instead. Requirements vary, so contact your chosen institutions for guidance on the type of reference needed. Avoid seeking references from family, friends, or partners, as this may lead to application cancellation. 

You typically need only one reference, but if you wish to provide more, inquire with the university or college about sending additional references directly. Keep in mind that your referee won’t have access to your application details, so discuss the necessary information with them before sending the reference request. 

What Changes to Undergraduate References for 2024 Entry?

For 2024, the UCAS application reference process is being enhanced to provide more focused information for universities and colleges. Instead of a free-text approach, three structured sections have been introduced for all undergraduate applications:

  • Section One: A general statement about the school.
  • Section Two: Information about extenuating circumstances affecting the applicant’s education.
  • Section Three: Outline of any other relevant circumstances.

It’s important to note that the information provided by advisers remains the same, but the new structure aims to streamline and organise the content. The emphasis is on short, concise statements to facilitate easy access to essential information for universities and colleges, aiding them in making selection decisions and providing targeted support.

What Should Be Included in Your UCAS References?

Academic Achievements:

  • Referees should highlight your academic accomplishments, including exam results, coursework, and any notable achievements in your chosen subjects. They should also discuss your intellectual curiosity, work ethic, and commitment to academic pursuits.

Personal Attributes:

  • The reference should provide insight into your personal qualities. This could include your communication skills, teamwork, leadership abilities, and any extracurricular activities that showcase your character.

Ambitions and Career Aspirations:

  • A good reference should express your aspirations and how your chosen course aligns with your future goals. This demonstrates to universities that you have a clear understanding of your chosen field and a passion for your subject.

Relevant Skills and Qualities:

  • Skills and qualities that are relevant to your chosen course should be emphasised. Whether it’s analytical thinking, problem-solving, or creativity, the reference should paint a picture of you as a well-rounded and capable individual.

For Referees: General Tips for Writing a High-Quality UCAS Reference

Start Early: Beginning the writing process well in advance of the submission deadline allows referees to give thoughtful consideration to the content and ensures a well-crafted reference.

Personalisation Matters: Each reference should be tailored to the individual student. It should highlight their unique strengths, achievements, and qualities, making the reference authentic and compelling.

Be Specific: Specific details about academic achievements, personal qualities, and extracurricular activities add credibility to the reference.

Address Any Gaps or Challenges: Challenges, such as disruptions due to the pandemic, should be addressed openly. Emphasise how the student has overcome these challenges, showcasing their resilience.

Highlight Growth and Development: Discuss the student’s progress and growth over time. Highlight any improvements, increased confidence, or a deepening of their passion for the subject.

Check for Accuracy: Ensure that all information, including grades and achievements, is accurate. Mistakes can undermine the credibility of the reference.

Conclude on a Positive Note: End the reference on a positive and optimistic note. Express confidence in the student’s ability to thrive in the chosen academic environment.

The Importance of a Personal Statement in Your Application

Crafting a compelling UCAS reference is undoubtedly a collaborative effort between the applicant and the referee. However, as an applicant, you won’t have much control over this section of your application. While references undoubtedly play a crucial role in the overall success of your university application, a finely crafted and compelling personal statement can also significantly bolster your chances of securing admission to your desired university. 

If you require assistance with your application, our team of expert academics is ready to support you in crafting or refining your personal statement. Reach out to us today and share everything about your future aspirations.