Blog 🍎 School 8th December 2021

How to Write References & Recommendations in BridgeU

Profile image of James Leach
James Leach

James is senior content marketing manager at BridgeU. He writes and directs content for BridgeU's university partners and our community of international schools

Writing references and recommendations – as well as editing and managing them – is probably one of the biggest parts of your role. And that’s in terms of both its impact and the amount of time it occupies.

Fortunately, there are tools that can streamline the entire process for everyone involved, from students to subject teachers to the counsellors overseeing the whole process.

With these tools, you can help ensure every student has the best possible letters to send to universities, and in turn receives more offers. All while reducing your administrative burden!

In this article, we’ll show you how the free BridgeU platform can make writing references and recommendations easy and intuitive.

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.

Writing a Reference in BridgeU

Now that we’ve covered why we have two separate tools, we can look at them a little more closely!

First, let’s think about the reference writing tool. There are two roles that you could have when it comes to reference writing in BridgeU:

  • The advisor, who oversees the whole process
  •  Report Writers, who simply write reports which will contribute to the final reference

The Advisor can enter any guidelines they want to share with colleagues on writing references, and is also responsible for assigning, tracking and managing Report Writers and their reports.

If you’re the Advisor, you can do this by heading to the ‘Documents’ tab when you’re logged into BridgeU, and clicking on ‘Reference letters’.

Reference letters BridgeU

You’ll be able to see any reference letters that have already been requested, and how they’re progressing. It’ll also be up to you and any other Advisors to assign new Report Writers to each student’s application.

Teachers who are assigned as Report Writers will receive an email inviting them to create an account and write their reference in the BridgeU platform. As they’re writing, they have access to a full profile on the student in question, ensuring they have all the information they need at their fingertips. This includes:

  • The subjects the student is studying
  • The student’s predicted grades
  • The universities the student has shortlisted (and very soon the ones they’ve applied to!)
  • The student’s extracurricular and professional experiences
  • The student’s personal statement

Teachers can simply type their subject-specific report into the textbox. It autosaves, so they don’t need to worry about losing their work if they want to step away or make changes later. When it’s ready, they can submit it – but they need to remember that they won’t be able to edit it after this point (but the Advisor will!).

Once all of the subject teachers’ reports have been submitted, you as the Advisor can start to collate them. Simply select the student whose reference you’re ready to finalise, and with one click you’ll be able to insert all of the separate reports into one textbox.

Reference writing in BridgeU

From there, you can edit it as needed until you have one polished reference of under 4000 characters, which you can paste directly into UCAS.

Writing recommendations in BridgeU

That’s UK universities covered, so let’s move on to recommendations for other applications.

Unlike with references, it’s the students who request recommendations from teachers (saving the Advisor a job!). Once the student has designated their recommenders, each one will receive an email containing a link which they can use to upload their recommendation letters.

You’ll notice that recommendations aren’t written within the platform like references are, meaning that recommenders don’t even need to create a BridgeU account.

But don’t worry! That doesn’t mean they don’t get the support and information that reference writers do. The email also contains a link leading them to information about the student’s applications, including the universities they hope to apply to and the experiences they plan to mention in their essays.

Plus, recommenders can see more recommendation letter information, tips and tricks and even sample letters.

They can use all of this to compile a really compelling letter about each student, which they should save as a PDF. Once it’s ready, they can follow the link in the email, fill out the online form, upload and submit the letter.

It will then appear on the student’s completed documents and be ready to send directly to both Common App and non-Common App universities around the world.

Reference vs recommendation writing in BridgeU

As you’ll have seen, both of these processes are really simple and easy. They guide writers thoughtfully through the process, highlighting crucial student information and handy tips to ensure that students get the best possible letters.

You’ve probably also noticed a few differences between the processes. To make them really clear, here’s a quick comparison table.

Get your free BridgeU account to streamline references and recommendations

With the BridgeU platform, you’ll be able to assign, track, manage and edit references as needed. It’s much more efficient than having to follow up with teachers in person or rely on their busy inboxes.

Plus, it means writers get clear guidance and a full student profile, meaning the letters they write are even better!

To make sure application processes run smoothly and avoid deadlines or documents being missed, make sure you create your free BridgeU account. It includes these tools and much, much more, and is completely free for your whole school forever.

To see all our other great features and get started, just click below.

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