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Writing a reference

Providing a scholarship reference for an undergraduate candidate

It is important that the referee 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

Where possible, we recommend that the reference is specifically written for the scholarship application and can comment on some element of the candidates financial situation.

However, if the referee is unable to contribute information on a candidate's financial situation - which applies in many cases and should not be seen to disadvantage the application - the same reference used for the application for admission can be supplied. It is not possible for the Financial Support Office to access the references submitted with the UCAS application. Candidates are responsible for supplying a separate copy of the reference to accompany their scholarship application. 

How to provide the reference

All references should be supplied to the Financial Support Office in a sealed envelope.

References should be in hard copy format with an original signature, and on school headed paper. 

Usually the reference would be given to the candidate in order for it to be submitted alongside the application form. It is also possible for references to be sent directly to the Financial Support Office, provided the name of the candidate is clearly marked on the correspondence. 

If it is not possible to include the reference with the application, the referee can email it directly to financial-support@lse.ac.uk. The email must come from an official (ie, school or college) email address, and should include the candidate's name and LSE ID number.

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 
  • 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)