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Writing a reference

It is important that the referee selected to provide the scholarship reference has detailed knowledge of the candidate.

Most LSE undergraduate scholarships are awarded on the basis of financial need.

Academic merit may be considered where there are two candidates with comparable financial need. 

What to include in the reference

We require one academic reference on School/College headed paper, or sent from an official School/College email account, from your current teacher or supervisor. 

If your referee has knowledge of your exceptional family circumstance or financial difficulties, they can include this information in your scholarship reference. 

However, if your referee is unable to contribute information on your financial situation - which applies in many cases -  this will not be seen as a disadvantage the application. 

The same reference used for your application for admission can be supplied. It is not possible for the Financial Support Office to access the references submitted with a UCAS application. 

How to provide the reference

The referee can email the reference directly to financial-support@lse.ac.uk. The email must come from an official (ie, school or college) email address, and should include your full name and LSE ID number.

It can be the same reference as used for your UCAS application but we need an additional copy to be submitted to use with your scholarship application. 

If the reference is submitted as a hard copy it will need to include an original signature and be on school headed paper. It can be sent direct to the Financial Support Office in a sealed envelope and will be matched with your scholarship application form. 

Characteristics of a good reference

A good reference for an undergraduate candidate will:

  • be 1 typed A4 page long a reference might be slightly longer in very exceptional cases; references which are very short can be interpreted as lukewarm
  • clearly indicate how long the referee has known the candidate and in what capacity
  • provide information about the candidate's previous exam performance and their ranking in relation to their cohort or previous cohorts
  • provide other factual, concrete and comparative information about the candidate's performance
  • include any distinctive achievements which differentiate a candidate from others 
  • information or context of any exceptional circumstances relating to family background or financial difficulties
  • make clear in the first paragraph that the candidate is a strong one; unreserved support for the student should not suddenly appear in the last line

Characteristics of a bad reference

Bad references tend to be characterised by:

  • short, vague statements
  • insufficient information concerning exam performance and relation to cohort
  • hints, rather than explicit information
  • irrelevant information, such as concerning a candidate's personality or extra curricular activities (except in cases where these are relevant to the programme of study or a specific scholarship)
  • sounding like it has come from a standard template, rather than being unique to the candidate
  • information about the referee rather than the candidate
  • understatement - if a candidate is an excellent prospect, this should be stated in no uncertain terms
  • being too short (one or two paragraphs) or too long (over a page)