References are an important part of your application to Waterloo. Your referees will be completing and submitting a confidential online reference form.

  • Choose referees who know your skills and experience, and who can communicate your ability to succeed as a graduate student.
  • We recommend that you contact your referees with a minimum of four weeks' notice before the application deadline.
  • Ensure that your referees are available and have ample time to complete the reference form before the application deadline. 
  • Note that all reference forms are verified for authenticity.

    You will find admission and reference requirements listed on your program page. Generally, admission to a master's program requires two references and admission to a PhD program requires three references. Official regulations are outlined in the Graduate Studies Academic Calendar.

    Academic references are required unless otherwise specified on your program page.

    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.
    • 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 to comment on your potential as a graduate student.
    • 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 your program page for more information.
    • Contact the department/program graduate co-ordinator 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.  
    • 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 to comment on your capabilities and the relevance of the graduate program to your career path.
    • 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 your program page for more information.
    • Contact the department/program graduate co-ordinator with any questions.

      Contacting your referees

      • Contact your referees several weeks in advance of your application deadline, to confirm:
        • their willingness to support your application
        • their current email address, and
        • current job title
      • Provide your referees with information and documents that will help them speak to your experience and potential. For example:
        • academic transcript(s)
        • curriculum vitae (CV)
        • resume
        • statement of interest
        • research papers
        • change of name, if applicable
      • Once they agree to support your application, tell your referees:
        • They will receive an email from Waterloo with a link to the secure and confidential online reference form (One to two business days after you have completed the OUAC application and the fee has been processed).
        • Reference forms need to be completed before your program application deadline.
        • Specify a deadline to ensure that your reference form is completed before the application deadline.

      Keep in mind

      • 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 forms 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, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and law enforcement personnel where appropriate.