Here’s how we’ve changed the Unifrog References tools to accommodate the changes that UCAS is making.
Our tools make it easy for class teachers to give their input. They’ll also make it easy to provide non-UCAS references as well as UCAS ones.
What the UCAS references changes are
Nothing has changed in terms of what content universities want in references.
The only changes are that the reference is split into three boxes, and some of the information is now optional.
UCAS also now recommends that references are written in a concise style. This means you can write in bullet-point style: be aware, though, that there may be a formatting issue with the actual bullet-point symbol—you don’t need to use the symbol to write in this format.
UCAS is making the changes for the upcoming cycle, i.e. for students submitting applications from 1 September 2023 onwards.
Our new interfaces along with new guidance on the platform are now live.
The new structure
Box one: General statement
This is an overall statement about your school or college. It should describe what your school/college is like in general, and explain if there have been any recent events that have affected the school as a whole.
- Your school is extremely selective
- Extensive building work at the school has affected the learning environment
- Your international school only started teaching the IB last year
- Very few of your students apply to university
Box two: Extenuating circumstances for the student's educational journey
This box is to let universities know about anything that has affected the student’s education or academic achievement. It is optional on UCAS, and should only be filled in when there is relevant information to add.
- The student missed a lot of classes due to an injury and is predicted a B in Maths, but their Maths teacher thinks that they would normally be an ‘A’ student.
- The student got lower grades at GCSE than is normally required by the universities, but then turned things around through hard work, and they are now predicted high grades on the IB
- The student has special needs which would benefit from tailored support by the universities
- A major event has happened in the student’s life which might be expected to have affected their grades, but hasn’t, thanks to the student’s organisation and hard work
- The student’s teacher for the subject related to the course they are applying to was absent for a long period of time due to personal circumstances
Box three: Reference
This box is to let universities know about a student’s suitability for the courses they are applying to, and anything special about the student. It is optional on UCAS, but some UK universities (such as Cambridge) have made it clear that they value this information, and we recommend using this section for your students.
- The student has demonstrated a particularly inquisitive nature by undertaking personal projects related to the course they are applying for
- The student is in the top 5% of their class for a subject related to the course they are applying for
- The student is amongst the top few that a teacher in a relevant subject has ever taught
- The student takes part in an extracurricular activity at a high level
Changes on Unifrog
On Unifrog our References tool will be separated into multiple boxes, which encourages a good structure and matches UCAS, but you’ll also be able to copy the text from all three boxes as one block for use in non-UCAS applications.
- The General statement
This is already addable as a standard paragraph for your school/college. Once it’s been added for you by someone in the Unifrog team, it will appear as standard on the interface, and you’ll be able to tweak it for each student if you wish.
- Input from Class teachers
Class teachers will be able to contribute to the Overall Reference in the same way as they have in the past, with clear guidance on the interface.
If for a particular student they have nothing to add, they can leave this blank.
- Collating into an Overall Reference
Whoever is writing the Overall Reference will be able to bring together all of the relevant input with one click, and from there can finalise the draft. As is the case now, multiple people will be able to edit and comment, the tool will save a complete version history, and Overall References will be colour coded according to their completion status.
- New guidance
Class teachers and Overall Reference writers will have best practice guidance at their fingertips when they are writing their references.
Top tips for box three
Looking for top tips on writing successful supporting statements? Look no further:
- Give supportive headlines:
- Show off your students' achievements with ‘headline’ results from past exams or coursework. Or, if the student you're writing about doesn't have particularly high grades, show off the progress they're making instead.
- Use evidence:
- You need to illustrate your commentary with concrete examples of things that a student has done in class. Just like an academic essay, broad statements need evidence to give them power.
- Read over your work before you submit it:
- Make sure there are no errors, particularly in the student’s name, gender, pronouns, or chosen subject. You should also get a second pair of eyes on it to make sure there are no typos that you might have overlooked.
If you're a partner looking for more detailed guidance on how to write successful References, check out our teacher guides on writing an outstanding Overall Reference and a superb supporting statement.
If you've got any questions, please contact your Area Manager. You can also contact email@example.com if you’re at an international school, or firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re at a UK school / college.