A letter of recommendation or commonly called LOR is a document assisting the admission officer to understand more about you through some genuine source. It aims at giving the officer a picture of your top qualities and sets their expectation during your studies in their university.
Unless and otherwise specified, a letter of recommendation is a 250 – 500 word essay that talks about the your strengths. There are some things you must include in a recommendation letter like the nature of association as well as the tenure of association.
Keep in mind that universities require this letter to be on the official letterhead of the institute or organization. For an Academic LOR – the university’s letterhead is required and for a Professional LOR – the letterhead of the company.
One thing important to remember in the latter case is that the letterhead should be of the company the recommender is working in. This usually creates a problem if your recommender has moved on to another organization. Hence, the student must know how to choose the right recommender.
An important point to be kept in mind is that a LOR is not a repetition of an SOP.
An ideal LOR is supposed to demonstrate aspects/perspectives of your personality not mentioned in your SOP or resume. Thus, an ideal recommender is the one who knows you well, has personally witnessed the quality of work delivered by you and readily agreed to provide specific instances of your valued contribution and excellence.
A generic LOR is a strict no-no, as it does not offer much value to your candidature for the program you are applying.
You must always remember that the Admission Committee scurries through thousands of applications and yours is one of them. Now, in order to stand out, focus on including your qualities and accomplishments reinforced by real instances. Another important point here is to endeavour to make all your LORs unique and that can be achieved only if you include unique instances in all the LORs
It is strongly recommended that each document of your application should be of the highest standard especially while applying to study abroad. This not only shows the admissions officer that you are serious but also helps the person understand you better and thus makes a personal touch. While a general LOR format picked up from the internet will serve purpose but may harm your candidature. It would show a general lack of interest in the application as well as a poor relationship between you and the recommender. You may have drafted a brilliant statement of purpose (SOP) but overlooking a well-drafted LOR is another dent in your application chances.
It may seem that the higher the position of the recommender in the organization higher maybe the value of the LOR. In practice however, we advise that the recommender should be someone who preferably knows you and has worked with you in some capacity. A project guide or even an assistant professor who has taught you a couple of subjects is a better recommender than a college dean or trustee. Keep in mind that some universities have a tendency to get in touch with the recommender to verify the details mentioned in the LOR. In such case it is best to keep the recommender in the loop and inform the person about the same. Choose a recommender with whom you have maintained a positive relationship. If this prospective recommender does not clearly remember your skills and accomplishments of the past, make sure you clearly remind as well as brief him about them.
Your recommenders should be people who have you in their good books, your success should matter to them and they should be confident about your skills and aptness for the course and university you are applying to. Also, the recommender should be able to draft a comprehensive letter not just listing your qualities but also conveying your abilities and future scope in a humble manner.
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