How to get a reference letter (for BSc/MSc students)

How can you make your referee’s life easier?

Why do you need reference letters?

Getting a reference letter for your job applications or applications for MSc studies is often crucial, and it is part of your personal tutor’s job to write one for you. You will often need 2 letters, so the next person to ask is the “second reference writer” (ask the support office who this person is). You can also try asking a lecturer for a reference letter, but they could refuse (after all, they are quite busy writing reference letters for their own tutees…), and it all comes down to your personal relationship with them (this is another reason for coming to lectures and being actively interested in modules).

When to contact a referee?

Ask your potential referee if they would be happy to write you a letter as soon as possible and give the date by which the letter need to be submitted. My advice is to give your potential referee an easy way out in your email to them (for instance, “I would of course understand if you are too busy to be able to write me a reference letter”).

Once (if) they have accepted, you can send them the informations below to help them.

How to help your referee?

Writing a reference letter is often a tedious task, and I strongly encourage you to make your referee’s life as easy as possible by sending them

  • A list of all the places/MSc you are applying to,
  • The name of the degree you are studying,
  • Your overall marks (i.e. if you are in your third year of MORSE, then send your year 1 & 2 average),
  • A detailed breakdown of your marks (if possible),
  • A small paragraph about your short-term goals and long-term goals,
  • Details of any internships that you might have done, or work experience (even in parallel to your studies),
  • Details of any significant role that you might have had in societies/charities/etc. (for instance if you are an exec for the Badminton society),
  • Details of any other special achievements (e.g. you play Rugby at National level, or are in the world’s top 5 rollerbladers).

Need help with your CV and support statement?

The careers services at Warwick do have some resources to help you. I am happy to give some advice to my personal tutees during office hours (please come with a draft statement/CV).

Final Note

I once wrote a reference letter, and in the end the student decided not to make any applications, so it ended up being a waste of time and I was slightly annoyed… From now on, I start writing the letter only after I have received the link/email from the institution/company for uploading a reference letter.