How many references for UCAS?

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The UCAS system is the way to apply for university in the UK. There are several different sections to keep track of on the application, from basic personal details, to the personal statement, to your actual subject and university choices. One less talked about part is the academic reference section. You might have heard your teachers talk about writing your UCAS reference – but how many references do you actually get?

The short answer is that you get one reference for your UCAS application. Some people get confused about this, because students can’t actually see their reference on their UCAS application. Additionally, it may be that several teachers contribute to your reference, so it seems like you have multiple. However, you only have one.

Keep reading for a full answer about your UCAS reference, including who exactly writes it, and whether it is ever possible to have more than one reference on your application.

How many references are on your UCAS application?

There is only one reference on your UCAS application. It is the same length as the personal statement – 4000 words or 47 lines.

However, it’s the one bit of your application you don’t complete yourself – it’s the responsibility of your school or college! This can lead to some confusion over what the reference actually is, and what it’s for.

The reference is a chance for teachers to tell universities about your abilities as a student. It’s not necessarily the most important part of the application, as universities are more interested in what you have to say for yourself in the personal statement. This could be part of the reason why only one reference is used.

However, the reference can be useful for teachers to tell universities about, for example, any exceptional circumstances that may have affected your education. This page from the University of Edinburgh has more information about the UCAS reference.

Can you have more than one UCAS reference?

Even though there is only one UCAS reference, some people wonder if they can get a second reference. There aren’t many reasons a student would need this, which is why there isn’t really an option for a second reference on the UCAS application.

This page from the official UCAS website is a general guide to the reference. It says that if you want your universities to see a second reference, the best thing to do is contact them and ask if a second reference can be sent to them directly, rather than through UCAS.

Who writes your UCAS reference?

There are different types of reference you may have heard of such as personal references and academic references. For UCAS, you will just need an academic reference – you can read more about this type in this article from Think Student.

Your teachers in school will write your UCAS reference, as they know best about your academic abilities and circumstances. Every school chooses which teacher writes it slightly differently.

In some, the student chooses who writes their reference. You may choose the teacher you think knows you best, or a teacher who is a specialist in the subject you are applying for.

In other cases, the school decides who writes the references. For example, they may say that each student’s form tutor is responsible for their reference.

Often, several teachers will contribute to a single reference. A teacher from each of your subjects may write a small section, then these will be combined by your form tutor.

If you hear multiple teachers talking about writing references, you may think your application will have several of them. However, don’t get confused by this – they are all combined into one reference for the actual application.

Can you read your UCAS reference?

Many students wonder about the content of their reference and want to know whether they can see it. It doesn’t show up on the normal student view of the website, but it’s still part of your application.

In general, you won’t be able to see your reference. In fact, this is one of the things that makes people wonder how many references they actually have! However, if you are particularly worried, you can always ask your teachers if they will make an exception.

More commonly, you will just discuss with teachers anything particular you want included in your reference. This can be additional experience you couldn’t fit in your personal statement, or special circumstances you feel have impacted your education or application.

For more about viewing your UCAS reference, check out this Think Student article.

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