How to get a reference
How to choose a referee
- In a current or recent school or college, ask your tutor, teacher, principal or head teacher.
- If you left education years ago, ask an employer, volunteering supervisor or trainer.
- Don’t ask family, friends, partners or ex-partners though – if you do your application may be cancelled.
- Before arranging the reference the school, college or centre will let you know when and how to pay your application fee.
- Then they’ll have a reference written for you by a teacher or tutor who knows you – you won’t have access to this, so you won’t need to do anything for it.
- Next they’ll send your application to us for you – keep in touch with them about how it’s going so that you’ll know when they’ve sent it to us.
- In ‘Options’ on the reference page you could ‘ask a registered school, college or centre to write a reference’ – contact them first, and if they’re happy to provide a reference, add their details and buzzword here.
- Alternatively, if a tutor, trainer or employer is happy to provide a reference, add their email and phone number to the reference page of your application, then click ‘Ask referee to complete reference.’ We’ll email them a link and password to the reference page, and we’ll ask them to confirm their identity before writing it – so it’s important your referee provides a direct email address (not a generic auto-response address), and that they understand the reference must be done online and not emailed or on paper.
- Please give your referee plenty of time to complete your reference, and if they need any advice there are instructions in the reference request email, there’s help text on the reference page and there’s guidance on how to write references below.
- Keep in touch with your referee to make sure the reference is completed in time, and then you’ll be able to pay your application fee and send your application to us.
How the reference should be written
Here’s an overview for you, so that you’ll know what to discuss with them.
- It must be a full reference, written by your referee online in the reference section of your application, in English (or Welsh if you’re applying for courses in Wales).
- It might include your career goals and work experience – so talk these through with them first – as well as how well you’ve done in specific modules or course components.
- If your referee is one of your teachers, they can add your predicted grades for any pending qualifications you’re studying now.
- With your permission, it could include circumstances that have/could affect your academic work, such as a personal problem, illness or any individual needs you have.
There is actually an option to not include a reference, but this could only happen if you contact all your chosen universities and colleges and they agree that you don’t need one – just confirm this on the reference page of your application.
If you're applying from prison you need a statement from the prison authorities too – saying you're suitable and available for the start date.