News & Events

Choosing your referees

November 6, 2023


Your application to the MEL or MHLP must include contact information for three referees. In the article below, Clement Yim, the MEL MHLP Program Manager, talks about how to select your referees and explains the process for how they are contacted.


You need to provide contact details for three referees. We recommend that you provide one professional and one academic reference. Your third referee can be an additional professional or academic reference, or it can be someone who knows you from another area in your life, such as in a volunteer capacity. Your referee should not be a friend or a family member.


Choose people who know about your accomplishments and what makes you unique: people who know you very well and who can speak to your abilities and strengths.

The MEL and MHLP are professional master’s degrees with a focus on leadership. That’s why you should get a reference from someone who can talk about your professional contributions, your work ethic or provide examples of where you went above and beyond what was required. For your professional referee, this could be a recent employer, manager or mentor.

The MEL and MHLP are also intensive academic degrees, which is why we also ask for an academic reference. For the academic referee, this could be a professor or even a tutorial assistant who knows your academic strengths. If you’ve been out of school for a long time, the committee will, of course, take into consideration that it might be difficult to get an academic reference. While it is still best to try and get a reference from someone who can speak to your academic abilities, if you are not able to do so, you can provide a second professional reference instead.


You will be asked to list three referees in your application and provide an institutional, business or academic email address for each. Personal email addresses (like Gmail or Hotmail or yahoo) cannot be used.

Your referees are automatically contacted once you submit your application and pay your application fee. They will receive an email from our application system with instructions on how to submit their references electronically or by postal mail.

Given that we must receive these references by the application deadline, you should submit your application well ahead of the deadline so your referees have time to complete and submit their references.

Keep in mind that we will not begin reviewing your application until we have received your three references. All three references must be submitted by the application deadline. That’s why giving your referees lots of lead time is so important.


Referees will receive clear instructions by email.

If you’ve provided an institutional, business or academic email address for the referee, they can either upload a reference letter or complete an online reference form that will ask them specific questions about you. The reference form only takes 10-15 minutes to complete.

If you’ve provided a personal email address for your referee (such as yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail), they cannot submit their reference online. They must submit a reference letter by postal mail. This means they need to print and sign the letter, seal it in an envelope and mail it to us. Sending a letter, especially internationally, often results in delays, and should be avoided. Whenever possible, provide the referee’s professional email address.