Teachers (Post-16)

Teacher advice: Writing a good and tailored reference

UCAS references are a very good way for Universities to be able to find out more about a student and get insight into how academics perceive them. It is vital for success that teachers tailor their personal statements to focus on the positives and steer away from the more negative aspects. 

A conversation with the student

Discussing with your student and finding out their vision for their personal statement is always helpful to make sure your it reflects what they would like it to be about. Here are some points to discuss with your students:

  • Any key selection criteria for their chosen course that they want you to factor in and mention in the reference.
  • Extra-curricular activities that help with their application or extenuating circumstances that you might not be aware of that could need explaining. 
  • Anything students can't fit in their statement but would like Bolton University to know.

Making it a personal and individual statement that stands out

Competition for university places is usually very high so it is best to make the personal statement stand out from the rest the admissions team and lecturers read. Here are a list of different tips on how you could make your students personal statements stand out from the rest.

  • Be course-specific - focus on their skills and why they are a good candidate for the specific course they are applying for. Don't make it too general as some courses will need certain skills so make sure these are reflected in the reference.
  • Information about extra-curricular activities is useful, but not in excessive detail, unless it's directly relevant to the course such as volunteering for a business teaching them skills for their future degree. 
  • Make it unique to the student - if it sounds like other students personal statements then it will be less memorable. 
  • Show that you know the student well - focus on their academic performance and transferable skills.
  • Show that the applicant is someone they will want to teach - demonstrate their academic progression, their academic awards, strong motivation etc. 
  • Use objective comparison or ranking - If the student is a top student and is known for ranking in the top 10% mention this!
  • Detail any challenges students have overcome while studying such as juggling their workload with part-time work, peer mentoring or volunteering to show they could handle university life. 
  • For professional courses (like medicine, nursing or social work) endorse the student's suitability for that profession. Don't be generalised such as 'Emma is interested in the healthcare field' as these course are competitive and tutors want to see how they specifically are engaged with that profession. 

Focus on the positives
Universities like to read references that are honest but that also focus on strengths. Do not fill the reference with the students weaknesses as this can be off putting to the university. Sometimes it pays to leave out a subject that has no bearing on the student's application, or to reduce it to one or two lines. Focus on the skills they have that will help them shine at University. 

Use evidence to back up the positives

Universities want to see evidence of an applicant's clear potential for undergraduate study. Using examples of why they would be able to handle university life and how their skills are already strong will help tutors be confident this student is ready for university. 

Make it specific to your students work 

Mentioning a specific piece of excellent work in a subject reference can be an effective way to bring a reference to life. Drawing on student coursework grades or a specific piece from a portfolio that did extremely well helps the student stand out.

You can also chat with our staff directly every Wednesday from 2 pm - 4 pm and periodically throughout the working week.

Alternatively, chat with our current students who will be able to share this information with you and any other course-related queries.

Or book onto one of our Open Days or Course Advice Days to find out more and speak with the team.

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