References vs recommendations
Before we dive into the inner workings of BridgeU, it’s worth pausing to sketch the differences between references and recommendations (you can also check out our handy cheat sheet for a summary!).
We provide a separate tool for both, and understanding their respective requirements illustrates our reasons for doing so.
For our purposes, ‘references’ refer specifically to UCAS references sent to UK universities. Each student has one single reference which is sent to all of the universities they apply to through UCAS. References are very succinct (4000 characters!), academic in focus and compiled from contributions made by several subject teachers (usually three or four), who report specifically on the student’s performance in their subject.
Recommendations, on the other hand, are most commonly associated with US universities (where they’re often referred to as Letters of Recommendation, or LOR). They convey a broader view of students and tend to be longer; the norm is around one page per letter. Some universities request/allow more than one letter per student and you can send separate letters to each institution.
As you can see, these two letters are vastly different in their content, structure, length and purpose, which is one of the reasons why so many BridgeU counsellors really appreciate their separation!
Plus, it saves them from attempting to extract subject reports for a UCAS reference from recommendation letters teachers have written - a time-consuming and sadly ineffectual task.
With our system, it’s easy to write the two documents, and clear how and why they’re separate.