Guidelines for writing a Letter of Recommendation

Admission committees get an exhaustive pool of applications, and hence letter of recommendation carries considerable weightage. While a well written Statement of Purpose gives an opportunity to the student to showcase himself/herself to the admission committee, a well-drafted letter of recommendation is a chance for professors or bosses to help the applicant put his or her best foot forward. There are two types of recommendations – Academic and Professional, and a University generally requires two to four recommendation letters. Guidelines for writing a Letter of Recommendation

 An LOR is an “expert testimony” that projects a student’s overall personality by talking about his skills, achievements, knowledge, and personality. A recommendation letter is not restricted to the applicant’s scores and grades and is targeted towards endorsing his/her capability and character to succeed in a particular program. A gleaming LOR goes a long way in establishing one’s candidacy for a particular program. Recommendations not only validate a student’s technical and academic competence, but can also convince the committee of his/her overall preparedness for the program in terms of aptitude, attitude, adaptability, flexibility, open-mindedness and interpersonal skills. A letter of recommendation provides insights into the student’s overall personality, which cannot be ascertained by only reviewing a student’s mark sheets or standardized test scores. Moreover, a recommendation can validate a candidate’s admissions essay and serve as an authentic validation of all the facts that the student mentions in the profile.

Much thought must be given while selecting your recommender. Firstly, they must be qualified to write a recommendation and should know you well enough to attest to your credibility for the intended program. Also, make sure that they are open to discussions with respect to any thing you want to explicitly mention in the LOR based on the University requirements. You also need to make sure that the person has enough time to submit LORs to multiple Universities and will do so before the deadlines. The following factors must be kept in mind while deciding your recommenders-

Your interaction with the professor: Guidelines for writing a Letter of Recommendation

You must preferably get your recommendation from a professor who has spent sufficient amount of time with you to be able to appraise you thoroughly for the program that you are applying for. Someone who has taught you subjects that are in alignment with your future course will be an ideal referee to evaluate your potential. When it comes to professional recommendation, you can obtain it from your immediate supervisor who can provide an inclusive picture of your skills and capabilities.

Rapport: Guidelines for writing a Letter of Recommendation

A spineless recommendation can do more harm than good to a student’s future. Your recommendation must be able to project you in the best light, and hence, you must not settle for anything less than an outstanding recommendation, which you can only get from Professor / Supervisor you share a great rapport with.

Availability and commitments: Guidelines for writing a Letter of Recommendation

While the recommender may have the best intention to help you, you can still land up in a tight spot if his commitments are not allowing him to devote the required time for writing or submitting the recommendation. Please check his engagements and obligations before you finalize your recommender.

Ace subject professor: Guidelines for writing a Letter of Recommendation

The prospect of getting the best evaluation is something you must not miss out on. It is a good idea to get your recommendation from a professor who has taught you subjects you were best at and can substantiate his positive opinion about you with concrete examples or grades. If he considers you as the cream of the crop in your class, he will end up giving you genuinely appreciable comments.

Paint a holistic picture: Guidelines for writing a Letter of Recommendation

Try getting, at least, one recommendation from someone who has known you outside the classroom setting and can speak convincingly about your strengths and involvement in extracurricular activities, thus making you sound like a cut above the rest. Admission committees are not just interested in your academic achievements but are also looking for well-rounded individuals who can add value to the university through their versatility.

Professional recommenders: 

Sometimes, people are in a dilemma whether or not to inform their managers about their application. In that case, you can still take LORs from the team leaders, project leaders, project managers or program/module managers. You also need to make sure that the recommenders are articulate, can write well and put you in the good light through examples. It is necessary that they should be available to submit the LOR before the relevant deadline.

A crucial point to keep in mind is that getting a glowing recommendation from the Assistant Professor of your ace-subject  is any day better than getting a lack-luster one from a Fulbright professor. Don’t get stuck with titles and qualification of the recommender. It is important that the person has a long meaningful association with you and can convincingly endorse your preparedness for the program.

A good LOR should talk about the flowing aspects of the student:

  • Academic/Professional skills
  • Personal character and attributes
  • Intellectual abilities for writing a Letter of Recommendation
  • Aptitudes and fortes
  • Interpersonal Skills Guidelines for writing a Letter of Recommendation
  • Validates credibility of the candidate and endorse his/her competence
  • Talks about the aspirant’s accomplishments
  • In some cases, talking about weaknesses to provide an objective analysis of an applicant could be advantageous

To conclude, recommendation letters are a crucial part of your application and are highly valued by the admission committee. By adhering to the above suggestions, you will be successful in getting good letters of recommendation that will help you in securing admission in the university of your choice.