References for college

How does everyone stand with references for college etc?

Are we obliged to do them if needed, or are we within our rights to say no?

What do we do if we don’t think the student will cope with the course we are asked to write a reference for?

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I’m not aware of any obligation to write them, but I think I generally would. The ‘safe’ way of doing it is to only write positive things and, if they so wish, the people reading them infer the limitations and weaknesses from the length of the reference and what you don’t comment on.

In a case like yours, I personally would suggest that they carefully consider their chosen path and maybe go over my specific concerns, but would otherwise write the reference as requested. This will all depend on the exact scenario of course, but I wouldn’t want to stand in the way of them doing something they have every right to because I don’t think it’s a good idea. Like I say there may be some reason to get involved in specific cases, but just as a general concept I would expect that whether or not they can handle it is for them and for the admissions board to decide.

The reference is to get information, if the college decides that they can handle it based on their grades, what I tell them, etc then that’s their choice to make and they would be better suited to make that call than myself, I would imagine. There would be no need for me to get involved in that process (though I do appreciate there’s a difference between preventing something and not assisting it). Again though, this is just my own personal view for the general scenario, there are always going to be exceptions and different ways of handling things.


I think it’s really up to every individual tutor.

I’ve decided that I’m happy to provide a character reference (as I would have happily done before the pandemic) but have drawn the line at providing any information on grades - as I have no way of formally assessing the student and no formal framework to work by.


I think what @dylan said here is spot on.