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What Is a Letter of Recommendation?

While applying for various universities, you may have heard a lot about something called the letter of recommendation, but what is it?

Just as the name suggests, a letter of recommendation is a document that recommends a student, employee, colleague or co-worker.  It is also called as a letter of reference or LOR in short. When issued to a student, this letter helps the admission committee to know and understand more about the applicant. Needless to say, this is a great tool to showcase positive and impactful information about the applicant from the eyes of their supervisor/mentor/superior/guide/faculty.

The LOR needs to be succinct in order to be effective. Remember, it is a separate letter and should never be mixed with a Resume. This is the most important reason why applicants may face rejection or refusals. But what is a good LOR?

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How to write a good LOR

There are a couple of tips when it comes to creating a good LOR. When you request for someone to write a letter of recommendation for you, ensure that it contains the following elements:

  1. A brief explanation about their relationship with you.

The letter should mention about how long have they known you and in what capacity have you interacted –advisor, mentor, faculty, teacher, supervisor or colleague.

  1. An emphasis on the observation being direct or indirect.

It always has a positive impact if the observations were direct as that gives a clear understanding of the extent of interaction. For example, working directly is important and adds more value than being known through someone and having worked together remotely. Things like “I know her/him and observed them while working in a group headed by Mr. Y”. In this, the recommender only observed you working in another group led by someone else who is actually not writing the recommendation.

  1. LOR should be accurate

An LOR should portray an accurate assessment of your eligibility and suitability for the course/program/study. Emphasis should be more on suitability rather than the recommender sounding more of like an advocate. For example, the recommender should mention how you fared in class about a relative course of interest/ rank position like top 3 or top 1% of the class/university.

  1. Avoid mentioning grades or scores

Unless specified otherwise, a recommendation letter should never mention any grades or scores of any tests. These are already mentioned in your application and it is redundant to repeat them.

  1. Include private information that is deemed necessary

Any private or sensitive information on you should be included only if it has any relevance or unless considered absolutely integral to the application.

  1. Mention qualities and unique contributions that you would bring

Any potential positive changes or impact that you might contributed should be indicated.

In a nutshell, the best recommendation letters come from someone who is more than happy to write it for you.

A vague and hastily written letter will do more harm than good, and it should come from someone who has the authority to lend weight to the document.

If you need any guidance regarding your letter of recommendation, feel free to reach out to our counsellors who are more than willing to help you out.

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