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FAQs about writing letter of recommendation

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Letter of Recommendation (LOR) is an integral part of your application to a foreign university.It not only boosts your credibility to the admission officials but highlights your potential as the most suitable candidate. An LOR provides a comprehensive insight about you as an individual and your various capabilities and inclinations in your subject area as well as competence beyond academics. It is imperative that your LOR projects you as the perfect fit based on relevant facts and an unbiased approach. Here’s all that you need to know about LORs:

How many LOR’s do I need?
Generally, institutions ask for one to three LORs, but it varies across programs. For example, MBA programs tend to ask for two whereas some Masters degrees might want you to produce one from an academic source and another from your field of work. Check the course website and plan accordingly.

Who should write them?
Who your recommender should be depends on the program requirements or as mentioned in the program guidelines. Following are the recommendation sources for various program categories:

1) For academic pursuits: if you are applying for undergraduate or a post-graduate degree that does not require work experience, your course instructors or academic mentors can be your reference. Approach someone who has coached you for a longer duration, is well aware of your progress over the course, have interacted closely on thesis/project work and with whom you share a level of comfort and understanding.

2) For professional course: Professional programs like MBA, executive trainings that require work experience ask for professional LOR’s. In this case, it is better to get your recommendation letter from your direct supervisor with whom you have worked on projects, and who knows your style of functioning. However, you can approach your CEO or someone in a higher position if you have had a one-to-one collaboration with the person on high impact assignments.

What points should my recommenders highlight on?
The content of the recommendation is of prime importance. It is as much essential to emphasize on what is to be written as how it is to be presented.The presentation of the letter also plays a crucial part to make your recommender’s perception of you look genuine.

From the thematic point of view, the matter must focus on your capabilities, academic achievements, fields of interests, leadership traits, emotional quotient, community service etc.

In terms of style, the write-up must be in simple and reader friendly language using clear and lucid expressions. Don’tonly adjectives, or mere descriptions, insteadcorroborate your accomplishments by citing solid examples that the person as your mentor/teacher has observed.

Provide relevant details pertaining to your achievements in the relevant domain, eg, internships, exchange programs, research work, participation and presentation in seminars etc.

It must throw light on your softer faculties namely communication skills, interpersonal skills, adaptability, team work, analytical abilities, enterprising outlook and contribution to the institution.

It is important that the tone does not reflect exaggeration or a biased perception but grounded on fair judgement and assessment based on observation.

What brief would I provide my recommenders with?
You may feel that your mentor knows you well enough to provide their feedback in the LOR, however, on your part it is necessary to furnish them with talking points so that they can tailor their response to the need of the program. Remember, besides all criteria, the main attention for selecting you as a prospective student will depend on how fit you are for the program. Once you understand and glean information about the course details, draft a template/organiser to share with your recommender for your LOR. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how readily they’ll welcome your initiative. Here are the essential points that you must provide:

How long they know you and in what context are they familiar with you?
How do they evaluate your skills, achievements, strengths and personality? They must provide examples for every point on which they are assessing you.

They must co-relate your key accomplishments with the program requirements to underscore your eligibility for it.
A brief specifying why they think you are a perfect fit for the program.

Who will upload the LOR?
Your LOR must be submitted by your recommender.  So make sure you explain the submission process to them. Show them how to upload the recommendation, and ensure that they submit it directly. Many schools have back-end technology which gives them insight into where the LOR is being uploaded from, so they can tell if it’s being uploaded from the same IP address as your application.

Your LOR must provide a holistic view of your profile as well as uphold you as a deserving candidate for the program so that the college committee gets an insight into your capabilities and efficiency.

(This article is written by Vibha Kagzi, Founder and Chief Education Officer,


  •     It is wonderful to be recommended by a distinguished alumnus or a renowned persona. However, unless you have interacted with the person on academic or professional reasons for a certain length of time, such recommendation will not strike the right note with the admission officials.
  •     Your recommender must know you well to be confident to write about you, as well as must be well-versed with the program you are applying for to judge your eligibility and efficiency for it.
  •     Give your recommenders ample time. Start working with recommenders 6-8 weeks before the submission deadline, so you have enough time to put together preparation materials, meet with them to request the recommendation and share these materials, and to respond to any questions that they may have.
  •     The LOR must convey an honest and sincere observation and perception of your personal and professional attributes in relevance to your application.


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