Are universities strict on two reference letters? Watch

MrDantab
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One of my referees has become unreliable and I'm not sure if they will end up writing and submitting my reference letter. I have no other lecturers willing to write me a letter. So far I have applied to Imperial and UCL but planning to apply to Cambridge. Will my applications still be considered if I only end up with one reference letter?
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capplicant
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They usually are. Cambridge is definitely not going to review your application without a reference.

Why are your lecturers unwilling to provide you with one?
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MrDantab
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(Original post by capplicant)
They usually are. Cambridge is definitely not going to review your application without a reference.

Why are your lecturers unwilling to provide you with one?
Well, one is. It is the second referee which is causing problems. They have not replied to any of my follow-up emails. That is not to say they will not end up writing one. I plan to go and see them face to face but don't know if I should be direct in asking them what is going on or be more gentle as they are the only other referee I have.
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Klix88
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(Original post by MrDantab)
Well, one is. It is the second referee which is causing problems. They have not replied to any of my follow-up emails. That is not to say they will not end up writing one. I plan to go and see them face to face but don't know if I should be direct in asking them what is going on or be more gentle as they are the only other referee I have.
If you see it as a choice between "direct" (confrontational) or "gentle" (tactful) when you want anything from anybody, always go the "gentle" route. You don't know why they haven't been responding. Maybe they've had a family bereavement. Maybe they don't think you'll be any good at the course. If you go in there with a direct approach, then whatever the reason, they won't respond well and you definitely won't get what you want.

Remember that staff are under no obligation to provide a reference. At my uni, if they consider a student unsuitable for the course for which the reference is required, then the preferred tactic is to not provide a reference at all rather than providing a negative one.
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capplicant
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(Original post by MrDantab)
Well, one is. It is the second referee which is causing problems. They have not replied to any of my follow-up emails. That is not to say they will not end up writing one. I plan to go and see them face to face but don't know if I should be direct in asking them what is going on or be more gentle as they are the only other referee I have.
Most universities have an online application system which does not mark an application as "complete" until all documents are received (e.g. Cambridge's), so you definitely need the amount they ask you to provide. Some universities may still consider your application, but it's quite rare.

As you said, you may want to see them face to face to sort it out, they just might be very busy. Don't ask them why they have never replied, just ask if they're willing to provide you with one before your deadlines.

I'd still ask other professors as a kind of safety net, it sounds strange that you have no other to ask for a reference.
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MrDantab
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(Original post by Klix88)
If you see it as a choice between "direct" (confrontational) or "gentle" (tactful) when you want anything from anybody, always go the "gentle" route. You don't know why they haven't been responding. Maybe they've had a family bereavement. Maybe they don't think you'll be any good at the course. If you go in there with a direct approach, then whatever the reason, they won't respond well and you definitely won't get what you want.

Remember that staff are under no obligation to provide a reference. At my uni, if they consider a student unsuitable for the course for which the reference is required, then the preferred tactic is to not provide a reference at all rather than providing a negative one.
I normally always opt for the "gentle" route too, my follow-up emails have been gentle and polite. I will most likely go for the gentle route but was experimenting the idea of a direct approach as well.
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MrDantab
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(Original post by capplicant)
Most universities have an online application system which does not mark an application as "complete" until all documents are received (e.g. Cambridge's), so you definitely need the amount they ask you to provide. Some universities may still consider your application, but it's quite rare.

As you said, you may want to see them face to face to sort it out, they just might be very busy. Don't ask them why they have never replied, just ask if they're willing to provide you with one before your deadlines.

I'd still ask other professors as a kind of safety net, it sounds strange that you have no other to ask for a reference.
I see. I have asked for other referees but they have declined. My problem was that I never attended lectures during my time in University and thus failed to make an impression on my lecturers. Mainly because I was unable to follow my lectures at all. I later discovered in my final year that I was dyslexic which explained why I was finding it difficult to attend these lectures.

Saying all that, I wonder if I explain my situation to the application team then they might make an exception?
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Mr. Bojangles
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I'm sorry, but if you didn't attend lectures then that's your own fault. Why would a lecturer want to write a reference for someone they've never seen before?

And no, I very much doubt that they will be able to make an exception. The references are possibly the most important part of a postgraduate application, they need to know what you are actually like as a person and not just your grades.
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MrDantab
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(Original post by Mr. Bojangles)
I'm sorry, but if you didn't attend lectures then that's your own fault. Why would a lecturer want to write a reference for someone they've never seen before?

And no, I very much doubt that they will be able to make an exception. The references are possibly the most important part of a postgraduate application, they need to know what you are actually like as a person and not just your grades.
No need to apologise. I understand why a lecturer who has never seen me will not write me a letter. In this case, the two referees that agreed to write me a letter have seen me consistently and know me really well. The problem is with one of the referees. The other one has already written me a letter.
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Mr. Bojangles
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(Original post by MrDantab)
No need to apologise. I understand why a lecturer who has never seen me will not write me a letter. In this case, the two referees that agreed to write me a letter have seen me consistently and know me really well. The problem is with one of the referees. The other one has already written me a letter.
In that case you need to understand that academics have a lot on their plate - research, teaching, meetings, conferences, seminars, admin work etc. If you want a half decent reference then it is understandable that you would have to wait a long time.
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MrDantab
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BUMP
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hofastudent
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Why would you bump? Was your question not answered?

It is incredibly unlikely (even impossible) that a university will consider your application without the requisite number of references—especially institutions of the status of Cambridge, UCL, and Imperial. If one of your referees is no longer willing or able to provide you with a reference, then your only option would seem to be to find another referee.
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MrDantab
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(Original post by hofastudent)
Why would you bump? Was your question not answered?

It is incredibly unlikely (even impossible) that a university will consider your application without the requisite number of references—especially institutions of the status of Cambridge, UCL, and Imperial. If one of your referees is no longer willing or able to provide you with a reference, then your only option would seem to be to find another referee.
Yes, not answered. I have seen in their applications FAQ list where they talk about exceptions can be made. They haven't however listed them. Just speculating what the exceptions can be and if my situation will count as one.
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capplicant
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(Original post by MrDantab)
Yes, not answered. I have seen in their applications FAQ list where they talk about exceptions can be made. They haven't however listed them. Just speculating what the exceptions can be and if my situation will count as one.
Well, we can't possibly know as I believe those exceptions to be very specific and considered on a case-by-case basis. I suggest you write an email asking them this kind of information.
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Klix88
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(Original post by MrDantab)
Yes, not answered. I have seen in their applications FAQ list where they talk about exceptions can be made. They haven't however listed them. Just speculating what the exceptions can be and if my situation will count as one.
I'm afraid that asking the internet for opinions won't get you anywhere. You need facts, so you have to ask those in possession of the facts and I doubt that anyone from the relevant Admissions team(s) will be looking in. It's the type of statement which is left deliberately woolly so that each case can be considered on its own merits and the Admissions staff can exercise discretion where they think it's justified.

1) Contact the Admissions Office(s) and ask them what the exceptions are. I can only guess, but if I suspect that "My referee isn't responding to emails" won't be one of them. In fact, it's likely to ring an alarm bell.

2) Ask your referee in person - politely - whether they can still give you a reference and line up an alternative if they can't.

Seriously. Go and sort it out. We can't help you.
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MrDantab
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(Original post by Klix88)
I'm afraid that asking the internet for opinions won't get you anywhere. You need facts, so you have to ask those in possession of the facts and I doubt that anyone from the relevant Admissions team(s) will be looking in. It's the type of statement which is left deliberately woolly so that each case can be considered on its own merits and the Admissions staff can exercise discretion where they think it's justified.

1) Contact the Admissions Office(s) and ask them what the exceptions are. I can only guess, but if I suspect that "My referee isn't responding to emails" won't be one of them. In fact, it's likely to ring an alarm bell.

2) Ask your referee in person - politely - whether they can still give you a reference and line up an alternative if they can't.

Seriously. Go and sort it out. We can't help you.
In your ideal world, we would never have any online forums. "Hey why ask us what the role of a government is when you can contact your local MP? Seriously." This is a platform where people can give their opinion or share their experiences if they went through a similar problem.

First half of your statement is correct. Your first point actually demonstrates why I can't just contact the Admission office. In fact, before you lectured me to sort it out, your statement was an obvious solution to my conundrum. My original post aim was to seek out other people that might have been accepted under one reference letter or any other experiences they had. That's what you will find online forums are usually for.
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MrDantab
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(Original post by capplicant)
Well, we can't possibly know as I believe those exceptions to be very specific and considered on a case-by-case basis. I suggest you write an email asking them this kind of information.
I see. I'm thinking of the worst scenario where all else fails: My referee doesn't write me the letter. Everyone else says no. In that case, I will have to explain my scenario and see where it takes me.
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Klix88
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(Original post by MrDantab)
In your ideal world, we would never have any online forums. "Hey why ask us what the role of a government is when you can contact your local MP? Seriously." This is a platform where people can give their opinion or share their experiences if they went through a similar problem.
So you want opinions, just not the ones you don't want to hear. Fine.

But in the two days this thread's been running, you could've gone to primary sources and found out. No need for experiences, opinions (wanted or unwanted) etc. Some issues just can't be helped with the wisdom of crowds. Experience of similar situations won't help, because this type of issue will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

First half of your statement is correct. Your first point actually demonstrates why I can't just contact the Admission office.
Or thinking about it, you could just ring them and ask. You don't have to give your name or details, just ask in principle. Heck, give a false name if you want to. How would they know? They won't know you from Adam. Just get the answer. It really would be that simple.

Go see your errant lecturer. Have a nice chat. They may just have forgotten you or missed your emails. This whole scenario might just be in your mind. Who knows - unless you ask.
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Bingo0908
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Hi there,

Not sure exactly of your case but just thought I would share my experience thus far with my MSc applications. I had two set backs facing me in terms of references: 1) Being a more reserved person, I too failed to make an impression on all my lecturers, so my choices were limited and 2) I graduated back in 2014 and my bad luck, all the lecturers who were familiar with me all have moved on from the university for various reasons and were not reachable.

I approached all of the universities I was applying to and given the time that's passed since my previous degree they have allowed me to submit a professional reference alongside my academic one - to be honest having worked at my current position for 2 years now I feel this would be much more useful anyway! As for getting an academic reference when your choices are slim I recommend identifying any classes you did well on, even if you did not form a close bond with the lecturer, reach out to them and explain your situation and provide them with any materials you have that can allow them familiarize themselves with you as a PG candidate- CV/Transcript/any previous work you produced for them.

Of course a stronger reference would come from someone who knows you well, but in a tricky situation such as this the best you can do is at least HAVE the reference requirements so you can move forward with your applications, good luck
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MrDantab
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(Original post by Klix88)
So you want opinions, just not the ones you don't want to hear. Fine.
Your opinion is most welcomed. I don't think anyone in this post has asked you to not present your opinion. I just noticed a flaw and pointed it out.

(Original post by Klix88)
But in the two days this thread's been running, you could've gone to primary sources and found out. No need for experiences, opinions (wanted or unwanted) etc. Some issues just can't be helped with the wisdom of crowds. Experience of similar situations won't help, because this type of issue will be handled on a case-by-case basis.


Or thinking about it, you could just ring them and ask. You don't have to give your name or details, just ask in principle. Heck, give a false name if you want to. How would they know? They won't know you from Adam. Just get the answer. It really would be that simple.

Go see your errant lecturer. Have a nice chat. They may just have forgotten you or missed your emails. This whole scenario might just be in your mind. Who knows - unless you ask.
That's actually a great suggestion. I will give it a go. Thanks.
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