If you’re studying to go to university then at some point, you’re going to have to start thinking about the application process.
Aside from getting the grades, there are two key elements to your application: your personal statement and your UCAS reference.
Your personal statement is extremely important to your application so it’s important to give it the time it deserves. If you need help with that, click here.
Your UCAS reference is essential to your application and without it you are very likely to be rejected.
This is because your reference – just as with an employment reference – is a statement of your suitability for study.
Essentially, it is a note of reassurance from an established professional that you are deserving of a place, should you be offered one.
Considering how limited some course places are, getting accepted is no small matter. This is why so much emphasis is placed on your personal statement and reference.
What is the UCAS reference for?
The UCAS reference helps the University determine your suitability for higher education both in general and in relation to your chosen course.
It helps the head of school or admissions office determine who, of all the applicants, will be best suited to the course beyond qualifications.
It works in tandem with your personal statement, as it should – in theory – support what you have said. Moreover, it will highlight how your qualifications, work experience or life skills have served you well in either a work or academic setting.
The reference then needs to indicate how those skills and experiences are transferrable to a university degree.
It’s also really important to note that your university application will not be considered without a reference.
Who should write your reference?
For school leavers, references would often be a form tutor or a subject teacher. However, for adults this can be a little trickier.
Your referee should ideally be someone you know in a professional or academic capacity. They should also know you well enough to write about you and to comment on your suitability for higher education.
This could be a line manager, or your CEO if you know them well enough. If you are currently studying in preparation for your degree, your tutor is ideal.
Your UCAS reference should not be a member of your family or a friend. Even if you work with a friend or family member, asking them to be your reference should be avoided.
What should your UCAS reference include?
References will vary depending on what you intend to study, your work experience and qualifications. In truth, a UCAS reference should be as individual as your personal statement.
As a guide, your reference should include some (or all) of the following:
- Existing achievement – formal/professional qualifications, professional achievements
- Motivation & commitment towards your area of study
- Relevant skills achievement, whether certificated or not
- Academic Potential – your ability to study at degree level
- Powers of analysis and independent thought
- Relevant curriculum enrichment and other activities
- Relevant work experience
Under normal circumstances, referees are advised to provide information about how you’d compare to other students at school leaver age. However, if you’re a mature student this isn’t entirely relevant.
Instead, they should focus on your work experience, professional achievements, work ethic and other qualities. The goal here is to highlight what you can bring to a seminar beyond your qualifications.
The truth is universities like mature students for this very reason. They tend to have a stronger work ethic, they’re more conscientious and bring with them a wealth of life experience. All of which tends to rub off on to their fellow students.
Use this to your advantage by asking your referee to emphasise all the areas in which you can be a positive influence within a university environment.
Assuming you’re applying yourself – rather than through a school or college – you will need to enter the reference into your application. The application allows you to copy and paste text so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
The form allows for 4,000 characters, or 47 lines of text. If your reference exceeds this limit, don’t edit it yourself, ask your referee to do so. UCAS references should also be written in English.
Whether you are studying A Levels or an Access to Higher Education Diploma, if you’re applying before you’ve completed your course, you’ll need to supply a predicted grade.
You should be able to work this out based on your performance thus far. But if in doubt, contact your tutor who will be able to give you an idea of your final grade.
Bear in mind, if you’re given a conditional offer you will need to achieve the stated grades to be accepted on to the course.
If you want to go to university but you don’t have the relevant qualifications, then studying an online course could be the answer.
Online courses give you the flexibility to study around your existing commitments. Which means you don’t need to choose between learning or working.
And because the courses are all online, you can start learning the day you enrol, you don’t have to wait until the start of term.
To learn more about how this works, click the link below or check out our blog.