As we mentioned previously, a student’s grades may have affected by external circumstances, which a UCAS reference might have to take into account. Here are some examples:
Illness, accident or disability
This can be something which is chronic and long-term, or something which has impacted the student during their studies. It’s only really useful to write about this if it won’t prevent a student from completing their degree course.
Illness or death of a family member
Family bereavement will, of course, have a huge impact on a student, especially if they are also having to think about forthcoming exams and their higher education prospects.
Home life problems
This can include any other ongoing issues which may be impacting an applicant’s studies, e.g. parents going through a divorce, financial issues, family mental health issues; these are all factors which could make a student’s home environment not conducive to study.
Student is the first in their family to go to university
This can impact a student’s application, as their parents may not be in a position to advise them or, in some cases, even encourage them in their application.
Teaching and learning challenges
These could include factors such as high turn-over of staff, unusually large class sizes or problems with timetables, which have resulted in a student having to study remotely.
Finally, remember to be mindful of any and all UCAS deadlines. The UCAS deadlines for students applying to Oxford and Cambridge, as well as Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Dentistry applications, are much earlier (in 2018 they must be submitted by the 15th October). Your reference must be submitted at the same time as the rest of the student’s application. So a UCAS reference which is truly honest, positive and supportive of your student’s aspirations can’t be left to the last minute!
Writing the UCAS reference is only half the battle. Read our bonus ebook on how to manage the UCAS Reference in your school and how to work with teachers in include you’re meeting those crucial deadlines.