Your ultimate goal of the admissions application is to convince the admissions committee that you have the talent, intelligence, and the drive to succeed as a future digital health professional. Your application, both as a package, and in each individual component, must support that goal.
Digital health informatics is an incredibly complex field. The abilities required to excel in ehealth / health informatics cannot easily be measured by grades or classroom performance. This is why an objective evaluation of your personal qualities by a third party is a critical piece of your application.
Personal qualities such as leadership, integrity, and ethics are key to a successful ehealth professional. These are areas if endorsed by a relevant, credible person will greatly enhance the quality of your application. In contrast, the absence of the conveying of these qualities in your application will greatly undermine the admissions committee’s perception of your character.
Not every referee will know how to properly discuss your qualities in the context of digital health. Referees are also usually extremely busy people preoccupied with other tasks so they won’t have much time to properly think about what to write that is best for you. For these reasons, you want to provide some guidance, and some “notes”, to help referees better organize their thoughts. When they write the actual reference, they can just refer to your “notes.”
For McMaster MSc ehealth and University of Toronto MHI admissions, your referees are required to either fill out a form with questions about you, and/or provide a one-page letter.
Many candidates don’t place much emphasis on references because they feel it’s out of their control. The fact is, it’s not out of their control. On top of picking who to provide their reference, the applicant certainly can put additional effort to influence the quality of reference being provided.
A high-quality reference has the following characteristics:
- The author knows the skills/traits and professional effectiveness required to be a successful digital health professional.
- The author knows the candidate well enough to assess their relevant qualifications and is willing to endorse the candidate on these qualifications.
- The author provides specific examples to assert his/her claims about the candidate.
With that in mind, in the following sections, I have provided some tips on how to ask for a reference, when to ask a reference, and importantly, what to ask from a reference. An email template is also given to help you create your “notes” for your referee.
The guide is written specifically for McMaster MSc ehealth or University of Toronto MHI admissions but can be useful for any digital health informatics graduate program admissions that require a reference.