These reports act as an external reference from a 3rd party that gives the university a deeper understanding of the applicant and their suitability for the program they are applying for. When selecting a referee, it is important to consider the following to ensure credibility and validity;
- The capacity that the applicant knows their referee.
- Length of time the applicant has known their referee.
- Whether the referee is academically or personally related.
- The referees title and suitability to be a referee.
- The referees knowledge and understanding of the field of Psychology and the specific program applied for.
- The referees ability to comment accurately on the applicants personal history and social adaptability.
Deciding on referees can be a difficult task and should be done with careful consideration. Academic referees are able to provide information on the applicants conduct during previous studies. Depending on the amount of interaction and the relationship formed during previous degrees, an academic referee can be a great asset to a potential student’s application.
Personal references can also provide a deeper understanding of the applicant and their journey through life and studying. Personal referees tend to have had a longer relationship with the applicant and are able to create greater context of the applicant’s life history in terms of difficulties and challenges they might have overcome.
Finally, many students in the field of psychology tend to spend time volunteering in field of psychology. This helps students develop an understanding of the different people and communities found throughout a diverse country like South Africa. Volunteering also helps prepare students for some of the types of interactions they might encounter at a later stage of their lives and studies. Students that participate in volunteering work should consider asking a supervisor of their organisation to prepare a referee report to give real-world context to the students ability to perform in the field of psychology.
The universities require these referee reports to be sent directly to the university, so it is unlikely that an applicant will get the opportunity to read what has been included in the report.