References

References are an important part of your application.  At Waterloo your referees will be completing and submitting an electronic reference form.

Choose referees who know your skills and experience, and who can communicate your ability to succeed as a graduate student. It’s also important to ensure that your referees are available and have ample time to complete the reference form before the application deadline. Contact your referees two to three weeks before you apply to confirm their availability, email address and current job title.

Note that all reference forms are verified for authenticity. Read more about our reference requirements.

Learn more about what is required:

Before you apply

Master’s Programs

  • A minimum of two letters of reference are required for admission to a master's program.
  • Academic references are required unless a professional reference is specified by your program.
  • Departments or Faculties may set higher requirements.
  • Visit our program pages for more information.

Doctoral Programs

  • A minimum of three letters of reference are required for admission to a doctoral/PhD program.
  • Academic references are required unless a professional reference is specified by your program.
  • Departments or Faculties may set higher requirements.
  • Visit our program pages for more information.

Academic References

  • An academic referee typically holds – or has held – an academic appointment at an educational institution. They have taught you in a course, or supervised your research, and can attest to your academic performance and aptitude for graduate-level studies.
  • Your program may have specific academic reference guidelines. For example, a department may require that referees hold PhDs, or have supervised your work for a minimum time period.
  • Visit our program pages for more information.
  • Contact the department/program graduate coordinator with any questions.

Professional References

  • A professional referee is typically a supervisor or senior-level employer. They have supervised you, and can attest to your possession of the skills and experience required for program admission.  
  • Your program may have specific professional reference guidelines. For example, a department may require that referees hold industry-specific professional designations, or have supervised your professional work for a minimum time period.
  • Visit our program pages for more information.
  • Contact the department/program graduate coordinator with any questions.

Reference Requirements

  • References from family members, friends, students, former or current classmates, employees and/or Teaching Assistants are not accepted.
  • Valid institutional or organizational email addresses are preferred. Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, etc. are not encouraged and will be verified.
  • The University of Waterloo may use your reference form(s) when considering you for institutional, provincial and federal awards/scholarships.
  • All reference letters are verified for authenticity. If evidence of misrepresentation or fraudulent or falsified documentation is found, the penalty is severe. The University of Waterloo reserves the right to revoke any offer of admission and/or financial support. The University of Waterloo may also disclose evidence of any misrepresentation or fraudulent or falsified documentation to all Canadian universities, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and law enforcement personnel where appropriate.

Selecting your referees

A few tips:

  • Check the reference requirements for your program of interest to determine the number of referees you need to secure, the type (academic and/or professional), and any other guidelines that are specific to your program.
  • Select referees who can best provide the following:
    • Academic referees will be asked to explain how they know you, rank your skills and abilities in a series of academic attributes (for example: research potential, communication, etc.) and provide comments on your potential as a graduate student.
    • Professional referees will be asked to explain how they know you, rank your skills and abilities in a series of professional attributes (for example: leadership, communication, etc.) and provide comments on your capabilities and the relevance of the graduate program to your career path.
  • Contact your intended referees before you complete Step 1 of the application process to ensure that they agree, are available and have confirmed their contact information and email address.  Learn more about our application process.
  • Let your intended referees know that Waterloo’s reference process is entirely online and confidential.
  • Once you have completed Step 1 of the application process your referees will be emailed a link to the secure and confidential online reference form. Note that reference forms don’t expire, but they should be completed by the application deadline for your program.  Visit your program page for more information on deadlines.
  • Provide your referees with a copy of your academic transcript(s), and any other documents that will help them speak to your experience and potential. For example: your curriculum vitae (CV), résumé, statement of interest, research papers, etc.
  • Give your referees a deadline to be sure they will submit their reference on or before the application deadline. Your application isn’t complete (and won’t be considered) until all your referees have submitted their online reference forms. We will send them an email reminder, but it’s in your best interest to [politely] remind them, too. You can log into our student information system, Quest, to check the status of your application and see which referees have, or have not, submitted their form.  (Quest will update within 24 hours of your referee submitting their form)
  • Share tips for writing effective reference letters with your referees.

Read University Affairs’ helpful articles on choosing your referees and how to ask for a reference letter.

After you apply

  • Your referees will receive an email from us within two to three business days after you have completed step 1 of the application process
  • We will send your referees two email reminders to complete the form within 14 days of the due date listed on the form.
  • Reference forms do not expire but they are required to complete your application, and should be submitted by the application deadline for your program.

Need to Change a Referee?

Subject Line: Referee change
Waterloo student ID number:
Program and application term:
Previous referee name:
New referee name:
New referee title:
New referee Institution:
Institution address (include street/city/country etc.):
New referee telephone:
New referee email address:

Need to Change a Referee’s email address?

Subject Line: Referee email address change
Waterloo student ID number:
Program and application term:
Referee name:
Previous referee email address:
New referee email address:

Need to have our reference email re-sent to your referee?

Subject Line: Re-send referee email
Waterloo student ID number:
Program and application term:
Referee name:
Referee email address: