References from lecturers for postgraduate study Watch

adamc07
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Hi

It has come to the time where I am looking at applying for postgraduate study upon completing my bachelors. I am applying to around 5-7 programmes, firstly is this a lot? Secondly, will my references have to write a reference for each of these different programmes or can they just wrote one and use it for all of them? Do the references have to be specific to each course? The reason I ask is because my lecturers are very fussy about wasting their time and I don't want to keep bothering them asking for more references.

Cheers!


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nonswimmer
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Whether it's a lot depends whether they're all the same basic program (English, English Literature) or whether they're all quite different (History, Frog Biology). The best references are specific so ask yourself if it will make sense to invite lecturers to cut-and-paste for you.

Why are you making so many applications? If you basically meet the criteria, and you aren't applying to a desperately small or competitive program, you WILL get on. Most MA programmes are neat money-spinners for universities, getting in is not desperately difficult (as long as you have the required qualifications)

All of which is to say: maybe make two or three applications, seven seems excessive. Be honest with your lecturers about what you need them to do, give them a chance to say 'no' in good time so that you can find alternates.
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returnmigrant
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As above getting a place usually isnt a problem if you meet the 2.1/First threshold and have a good reference. The issue for most people is funding. This bit is much more competitive but you still need to 'target' your applications rather than applying everywhere.

Work out your preferences and apply to your favourite one or two first. Only if these fail do you need to keep going and apply for others. Tell you referees that you are applying to the one or two specific courses (send them the course description or website link) and then you only need to go back to them if you need to.
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adamc07
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Well it's not really 7, there are 5 that I am really interested in, but the other two would probably be applications based on whether i get rejected from the first 5. i always prepare myself for the worst haha! I'm currently sitting on a 69% average after my second year so one big push and I should hopefully come out with a first. The courses I am hoping to apply to are:

University of Cambridge - Mphil - Politics and International Relations
University of Oxford - Mphil - International Relations
Kings College London - MA - Terrorism, Security and Society
University College London - MSc - Security Studies
University of St. Andrews - MLitt - International Security Studies

Obviously I know the Oxford and Cambridge courses are extremely competitive, but they really do look like a great course to be on and I believe would offer great employment prospects afterwards. KCL, UCL and St. Andrews courses are really small too with only approx 30 places each. So I'm basically applying to courses which I may very well not get on to and I just want to maximise my chances by making sure my references are good. I have chosen my 3 lecturer references and all of them have said they are happy to write them however I am not sure what they will write, whether they will show me what they've wrote and whether or not they will write the references to be course specific. I just don't want to annoy them by asking them to write a new reference for each course that I apply for.

Thanks again!


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starryganpost
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(Original post by adamc07)
Well it's not really 7, there are 5 that I am really interested in, but the other two would probably be applications based on whether i get rejected from the first 5. i always prepare myself for the worst haha! I'm currently sitting on a 69% average after my second year so one big push and I should hopefully come out with a first. The courses I am hoping to apply to are:

University of Cambridge - Mphil - Politics and International Relations
University of Oxford - Mphil - International Relations
Kings College London - MA - Terrorism, Security and Society
University College London - MSc - Security Studies
University of St. Andrews - MLitt - International Security Studies

Obviously I know the Oxford and Cambridge courses are extremely competitive, but they really do look like a great course to be on and I believe would offer great employment prospects afterwards. KCL, UCL and St. Andrews courses are really small too with only approx 30 places each. So I'm basically applying to courses which I may very well not get on to and I just want to maximise my chances by making sure my references are good. I have chosen my 3 lecturer references and all of them have said they are happy to write them however I am not sure what they will write, whether they will show me what they've wrote and whether or not they will write the references to be course specific. I just don't want to annoy them by asking them to write a new reference for each course that I apply for.

Thanks again!


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I know it can be hard to relax and trust your lecturers, but if they've already agreed to write you a reference this far in advance, I don't think you need to worry. Although they (almost 100%) won't show you the reference (most applications, certainly Oxbridge and St Andrews which I dealt with last year, require the referee the submit the reference independently), they won't write anything awful about you - I've only heard of it happening once, but a lecturer refused to write a reference for a friend because he said he didn't think she'd be up for the course. So if they've agreed, they'll write nice things!

The main thing is to remember that writing references is part of a lecturer's job, and in most cases are happy to do it. They've all had to do the same thing to get where they are and many of them would still have to request collegues to write references for them (for grant applications, promotions etc.) I dealt with four referees across my applications for masters and scholarships and all of them were more than happy to write multiple references, put up with my increasingly panic-ey e-mails as submission dates approached and were always keen to know how the applications got on.

In short, reference writing is part of academic culture and the lecuterers are used to everything you're asking of them.
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flying plum
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Seven seems like a lot. Five is probably on the edge of the number of applications I could face.

Regards your lecturers, I would be honest when you ask for references and say what your applying for and ask them of they're willing to do all five. They might need to tweak each one, so best they decide what they'd re prepared to do.

Generally, though, if you're a good student and they like you, writing a reference isn't generally sen as a waste of time.

Edit - just seen you've already asked. If you're worried, I'd check they're ok with that ,any. But I'm sure they are fine :-)
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sj27
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(Original post by adamc07)
Well it's not really 7, there are 5 that I am really interested in, but the other two would probably be applications based on whether i get rejected from the first 5. i always prepare myself for the worst haha! I'm currently sitting on a 69% average after my second year so one big push and I should hopefully come out with a first. The courses I am hoping to apply to are:

University of Cambridge - Mphil - Politics and International Relations
University of Oxford - Mphil - International Relations
Kings College London - MA - Terrorism, Security and Society
University College London - MSc - Security Studies
University of St. Andrews - MLitt - International Security Studies

Obviously I know the Oxford and Cambridge courses are extremely competitive, but they really do look like a great course to be on and I believe would offer great employment prospects afterwards. KCL, UCL and St. Andrews courses are really small too with only approx 30 places each. So I'm basically applying to courses which I may very well not get on to and I just want to maximise my chances by making sure my references are good. I have chosen my 3 lecturer references and all of them have said they are happy to write them however I am not sure what they will write, whether they will show me what they've wrote and whether or not they will write the references to be course specific. I just don't want to annoy them by asking them to write a new reference for each course that I apply for.

Thanks again!


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Just a word of "warning" - don't expect a quick reply from Cambridge, they will most likely take a few months with your application. Your research proposal will probably be at least as important as your references there, so spend time on it. Can't comment on the others.
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starryganpost
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(Original post by sj27)
Just a word of "warning" - don't expect a quick reply from Cambridge, they will most likely take a few months with your application. Your research proposal will probably be at least as important as your references there, so spend time on it. Can't comment on the others.
On this note, in fact, for the three I applied to, you can only really rely on St Andrews for a quick response - they got back to me within about a month. For Oxbridge, your research proposal/statement of intent is very important, and in hindsight I wish I had put much more thought into mine (particularly in order to even be considered for any funding at Master's level). I heard back from Cambridge and Oxford in late March and mid-May (and only after I sent a follow up e-mail enquiring about my application's status), respectively, after January applications, so don't hold your breath.
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sj27
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(Original post by starryganpost)
On this note, in fact, for the three I applied to, you can only really rely on St Andrews for a quick response - they got back to me within about a month. For Oxbridge, your research proposal/statement of intent is very important, and in hindsight I wish I had put much more thought into mine (particularly in order to even be considered for any funding at Master's level). I heard back from Cambridge and Oxford in late March and mid-May (and only after I sent a follow up e-mail enquiring about my application's status), respectively, after January applications, so don't hold your breath.
That's actually pretty quick by Cambridge norms!
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Lecturer2014
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[QUOTE=
The main thing is to remember that writing references is part of a lecturer's job, and in most cases are happy to do it. They've all had to do the same thing to get where they are and many of them would still have to request collegues to write references for them (for grant applications, promotions etc.) I dealt with four referees across my applications for masters and scholarships and all of them were more than happy to write multiple references, put up with my increasingly panic-ey e-mails as submission dates approached and were always keen to know how the applications got on.

In short, reference writing is part of academic culture and the lecuterers are used to everything you're asking of them.[/QUOTE]

Okay, happened upon this page and thought I should comment. As a lecturer I agree, it's part of our job (though we're not obliged to do it) and we're happy to help our students.
However........ lecturers don't just sit in office when we're not teaching, awaiting student queries or prepping our lessons, we've got lots to do, e.g. research, write grants etc, as well as studying/reading new research and concepts. It's pretty much a full-time job without student references.
I don't in any way want to discourage a student from asking whether they can use me as a reference, I've never refused and would only do so if a student was applying for multiple things (like the OP) and requesting repeatedly. A good reference will be tailored to the position in question and if every student requested a half dozen references, especially in a short period of time, there'd be no time for the lecturer to oblige. Remember, each lecturer is potentially contacted by dozens of students each summer looking for references. It all adds up.

P.S. I'm also a student
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