Teachers’ Guide – UCAS Reference
Writing a UCAS reference to supplement a student’s application is challenging. This is particularly so when they are applying for competitive courses like Law.
You will obviously be keen to do the best by your students and this is where The Lawyer Portal comes in! Using our extensive knowledge and insight, we have prepared this teachers’ guide to writing a UCAS reference to help you get ahead and support your students in the best possible way.
What Is A Teacher UCAS Reference?
Like personal statements, a teacher UCAS reference can be up to 4,000 characters and 47 lines long. A UCAS reference should ultimately offer a professional and thoughtful appraisal of a student’s ability and suitability to study Law.
The UCAS website states: ‘as a referee, you’re aiming to give universities and colleges an informed and academic assessment of an applicant’s suitability for further study.’
Your teacher UCAS reference needs to complement and reinforce the student’s law personal statement as opposed to duplicating it. In fact, UCAS warns teachers to ‘avoid repeating any of the information they [the student] has given in their application, unless you want to comment on it, and avoid mentioning any particular university or college.’
As such, there is a fine balance to strike between the student’s personal statement and your UCAS reference.
What Can My Teacher UCAS Reference Add?
You should ask yourself: ‘what can I say to reinforce this student’s application that they might not be able or feel comfortable to say themselves?’
See below a list of suggestions of things to include:
- A neutral appraisal of their academic potential
- Confirmation that their motivation is genuine
- Anything the student is too modest to say for themselves!
Key Components of a Teacher UCAS Reference
UCAS highlights the following key components of a UCAS reference. For each one, we highlight a list of key considerations that the teacher needs to take into account.
Post-16 academic performance and their potential for success in higher education
- Ideally, this will be a confirmation of their strong academic credentials
- If there are mitigating circumstances around lower grades, include this
- If grades are lower and there are no mitigating circumstances – reconsider their application?
- Stress that their academic ability will transfer beyond A-Level
Why they’re suited to their chosen subject and career path, plus their attitude, motivation and commitment
- Suitability is more important for Law as it is a tough course
- Teachers must be aware of what it is really like to study and practise law
- Commitment is essential — does this shine through on a daily basis?
- Use evidence to support their motivation — do their actions support their words?
Achievements, work experience, and extracurricular activities that relate to their chosen course(s)
- Law work experience is certainly beneficial — can you add to what’s in their personal statement?
- What key qualities do their extracurricular activities show?
- Elaborate on what the student writes with additional detail or emphasis
Skills and qualities like aptitude and enthusiasm, plus current or past achievements that will help with their chosen subject area
- Be aware of the key qualities needed to successfully study and practice law, including: communication; excellent written skills; teamwork; stress management; desire to learn; solid problem solving abilities.
- Link these qualities to the qualities and actions of the student.
Should I Involve The Student?
In a word – yes! We recommend this highly.
Explain to students that if they want a great UCAS reference, it is their responsibility to keep you up to date with academic and extracurricular activities that demonstrate the key qualities.
Ideally, these should be submitted to you in writing, along with a list of things the student thinks would benefit their application but which they could not fit on the law personal statement.
Tips For Writing A Teacher UCAS Reference
Here are the top five tips for teachers writing UCAS references for Law:
- Be honest. If you are struggling to recommend a student, are they really up to studying Law?
- If you have doubts, speak to the student. Perhaps they will share your doubts; if not they might convince you and in doing so give inspiration for the UCAS reference.
- Talk to the student regularly so you get to know them. Understand their motivations for Law, what they have done and what they have learned.
- Keep notes on any times when you notice your law applicants showing key qualities needed to successfully study law. You can then use these in your UCAS reference.
- Get the tone right. Aim for a UCAS reference that is objective and analytical, but sprinkled with personal endorsement.