The UCAS reference is a mandatory part of your university application and may be the factor that decides whether or not you receive offers from particular universities. Therefore, it is essential that it is well written and makes you sound like the perfect candidate for your chosen university and course. So, are we allowed to see it?
The short answer is no, unless your school allows you to see it before submission. Sometimes you are able to pay an extra fee to UCAS to see it, however, this doesn’t mean that everyone can easily access it just like that with no good reason. Although this may sound quite daunting, if your referee knows you and your potential really well, then there shouldn’t be anything to worry about, and if you are still nervous, you can request a copy of your entire application from UCAS after submission.
Now you have the short answer, I recommend reading the rest of this article to find out more about why exactly you can’t see your UCAS reference and also what it should include.
Table of Contents
What is a UCAS Reference?
A UCAS reference is designed to function as one voice from your school. It is the one and only part of the application process that students do not have any control over.
However, this shouldn’t sound overwhelming, it’s simply a way that UCAS and your chosen universities can verify that you didn’t make everything up in your personal statement, and that in fact you are an academically talented individual that deserves to go to university.
It can also be described as a teacher version of your personal statement, as they are rather quite similar apart from that someone is writing everything about you, instead of you doing it yourself. If you wanted to put something in your personal statement, but you didn’t have enough space, you can ask your referee to put it in your reference.
If you would like to read more about the reference, you can click this link to go onto the UCAS website.
What Should Your UCAS Reference Include?
Although you are probably not going to see your reference, there are some key parts that should be included, which means that you can get a sense of what your teacher will write about you.
A few examples of what should be included are:
- A summary of your post–16 academic performance
- Why you are suitable for your chosen course and the key skills you have.
- Your motivation and commitment to curricular and extracurricular activities
- Why the teacher thinks you will be successful in your chosen career path.
The teacher will most likely also include things such as grades, (and predicted grades) what you’re like as a student, things such as: if you arrive to class on time, whether you get detentions, are you a person that is easy to work with, etc.
More information can be found here
What is an ‘Extenuating Circumstance’?
This is something that is quite difficult to define because everyone reacts differently to different situations that they come across and the circumstances they’re in. However, it can be thought of as an event or situation that happened which you had no control over, therefore affecting your ability to learn, study as well as take exams.
There is a certain criterion that the event must fall in for it to be classified as an ‘extenuating circumstance’. A few of the point listed on the university of Nottingham’s website are:
- They have to be out of control; you could have not prevented them.
- They must have had a significant impact; they must have clearly had a negative impact on your ability to study or to undertake an assessment.
- The timing of the circumstance must be relevant to the claimed impact.
- Long-term illness and disability
These are just a few, if you would like to find out more information, click here
You are allowed to tell universities in your application if you have had an ‘extenuating circumstance’ in your life, and this could mean that some universities look at your application differently. An example of this could be lower entry requirements or an unconditional offer rather than a conditional one.
How Do You Choose a Referee?
Your referee will usually be one of your teachers, a tutor, perhaps your head of year or head of sixth form. It should be someone that knows you well academically so that they can write a good reference about you.
Another good way to think about it, say if you wanted to study maths at university, would be to ask one of your maths teachers. That way, the teacher will be able to give a much better tailored and detailed reference linking all of the skills that you will need to do your course. They could also bring in their own experience to show how you are a great fit for the course.
I would personally recommend picking a referee in this way, as it can boost your chances of getting into university for that course.
However, the most important point would be to NOT ask someone such as a friend, family member, partner, ex-partner, etc, as this would result in your application being discontinued. It must be someone that you know professionally, not personally.
More information on how to pick a referee can be found by clicking this link
How Do You Make Sure Your Chosen Referee Has Written the Correct Things About You in Your Reference?
The word ‘correct’ can be quite misleading because there isn’t a checklist of things that your referee should write. Also, many universities websites state that there isn’t something particular that they look for in a reference, they simply want to see if that individual is right for the course that they want to study.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that you will have a complete blind eye when your teacher is writing your reference. It is recommended that you talk about things you have done that you would like you teacher to include.
Examples of this may include:
- Work experience (person to person or virtually)
- EPQ (extended project qualification)
- Any extracurricular activities that you do
- Webinars, online events
- Master classes
- Wider reading you have done, for example: books (you can find a book for any subject so this is a great one) podcasts, articles, etc
- Museum trips (or anything similar to this such as an art gallery)
There are many more things that are reference worthy, even if you don’t think they are, its better to tell your teacher about it and they might be more impressed than you think.
Teachers also receive a guide on how to write a positive reference, more information can be found by clicking this link
When Could You See Your UCAS Reference?
You can ask to see your reference under data protection laws after it is sent to UCAS.
The main reason as to why you can’t see it before is because of data protection acts and the reference being valid. UCAS say that if you’ve seen the reference, it is no longer a valid reference, and as a result can discontinue your application completely.
So, if you really want to see it, its best to ask after you have submitted your application, avoiding any unnecessary trouble.
It is possible to email UCAS directly and ask for your reference, or as I have stated before, a copy of your entire application. UCAS say that if you need your reference for whatever reason, they will send you a copy.
Now you have read this article, I hope that you have a better understanding of the UCAS reference as a whole, as well as knowing that you can’t see your reference before submission. If you would like to read more about the UCAS reference, click here to go to the UCAS website.