Your admission tutor is going to see three things. Your predictive grade, your personal statement, and your reference. Each of these is equally important to ensure that you get to the right course. But how you get a reference and how you know what goes into it?

The reference is a vitally important part of your application. You get to control what goes into your personal statement but not what goes into your reference and sometimes you might not even see it before it gets sent off.

If you are at school or college they already have this set up, all you need to do is fill in all of the other sections online, including the pay and send, and then the next step will be left up to the person writing your reference. School have extensive systems in place for writing UCAS references and teachers are very experienced at doing this. This can be your tutor or one of your teachers, they have access to the UCAS system as well. They can pop in your reference and then click send, and it will go off straight away.

If you're not currently in school, then you've got two choices. You can either ask your old school to do one for you, or you can ask an employer to write one for you. If you were to get your old school to write one for you, you need to talk to somebody there and get them to agree to write the reference for you. Once they've accepted, you need to ask for the school ‘buzzword’ make sure you write it down accurately. When you log into UCAS, you can then add the school to the section to write your references. You’ll need to go to options, ask a registered school to write your reference, type in the ‘buzzword’, and then you need to wait for the college or school to accept you, and then they write your reference. And it goes off just the same.

If you've been out of education for a while, then an employer is going to be the best person to write your reference for you. The first step, again, is to check that the employer or person you’re working for is happy to write a reference for you. You can then get into the UCAS system, add their details under referee and get UCAS to send them an email. They'll be then sent an email, they can log in to that website and write your reference for you there. You'll know when they've done that because the reference section on the UCAS application form will have a nice little red tick next to it. UCAS will email you when this is all complete. Do not get your friends, relatives, or partners to do it because UCAS just won't accept this.

Any reference that is written for you should talk about how suited you are academically for the course that you're going to do. Any work experience or skills, anything you've got that is relevant to the course that you're going to do, any transferable skills that you've acquired. Any predicted grades that you've got for classes that you're sitting. And if for any exceptional circumstances that mean you might not do as well as you have intended. If you manage your reference carefully there's no reason it shouldn't hold you back.