As many Leaving Cert students reach the end of their schooldays, some of the savvy students may be thinking about asking for a school reference. You never know when you may need it and surly it’s best to ask for one while you are still a member of the school community and fresh in the mind of the referee.
Why might you require a school reference?
Applying for a place in Further Education. Many colleges of further education look for a reference, this doesn’t have to be provided by your school. Depending on the nature of the course you may find that a reference from a sports coach, music tutor, scouts leader or your boss in your part-time job (if you have one) may be more appropriate. But many students turn to school for a reference.
Applying for your first job. If school is the furthest point of education that you have attained so far then employers may look for a school reference.
When your asked for a reference. At any time in the near future you may require a reference and a school recommendation, based on five years’ experience of you, is hard to beat.
Choose a referee who knows you well. There is no point asking the school principal to write you a reference is he or she barely knows your name. If your year head or a subject teacher knows you better ask him/her. You should have a good relationship with your referee and he/she should know you well so he/she can write an accurate character description of you that is genuine. If you are not well acquainted with your referee the reference may be less personal and more factual. A factual reference is far less desirable.
Pick an opportune time to ask. The end of school term is a very busy time for teachers. They are knee deep in exam corrections, busy doing last minute revision with exam classes and they are tying up loose ends as the school year draws to a close. Many teachers are exhausted at the end of term and may be reluctant to take on any extra work, so tread carefully.
Show humility and gratitude. Writing a reference is not part of a teacher’s or a principal’s job. If they choose to write you a reference they are doing it solely to benefit you. It can take a long time to write a quality reference so remember this when you receive your reference. Showing genuine gratitude verbally is really important. It is nice to follow this gratitude up with a card or email. Being thankful is really appreciated by the referee who has given so generously of his or her time to help you out.
Preparing your reference
Doing a bit of preparation can make the whole process a lot easier for your referee and help you to get the best possible reference.
By preparing a document with all the essential information you would like them to include in your reference you are providing your referee with key information that you would like included in your reference and that you couldn’t possibly expect them to know.
Here’s some ideas on what you could include:
Provide them with your personal information so they don’t have to look it up: Full name, address, year you started school, attendance record, behaviour record.
School participation: Clubs, sports, activities etc that you got involved with in the school. Specify any responsibilities you took on personally.
Community participation: Your school reference can also include details of clubs, sports and activities you are involved in outside of school. Again be specific about your involvement.
Achievements: List any awards you have received in school such as merit awards, sporting achievements, academic achievements etc. Include dates of achievements.
Academic record: List Junior Cert achievements and realistic Leaving Cert expectations. Mention how many subjects you expect to sit at higher level and how you performed in your house exams to date.
Skills: Pick two or three skills that you feel you have developed while at school and prove how you have developed them.
The above information is intended to assist the referee in writing the reference. They may not be able to include all the information. Allow them to use their own intuition. If they omitted a detail it may be because they couldn’t find an appropriate place to include it.
Don’t place demands or time limits on when reference needs to be completed. If he/she cannot complete it by the end of the school term or exam period then provide them with a stamped addressed envelope.
Show gratitude to your referee for the time and effort they gave to your reference.
Make a few photocopies of the reference and keep it in a safe place ready for when it is needed.
The CareersPortal Team