Letter of Recommendations
What is a Letter of Recommendation (LOR)?
A recommendation letter is a document that provides the Admission Committee with a comprehensive insight into your suitable candidature for admission into the concerned University. The letter aims at enabling the Admission Committee to gain a clearer and favourable picture of your experience, achievements, contributions and skills communicated by the recommender through the recommendation letter.
Provided that almost every application necessitates submission of 2-3 recommendation letters, you must have your recommenders identified and agreed to prepare your letter well in time. Also, don’t underrate the importance of a LOR as it is almost as important as your Statement of Purpose, Resume or any other document for that matter. While choosing the right recommender, you must remember a few key pointers following which you will end up submitting outstanding LOR’s to the Admission Committee.
Types of LOR.
Letter of Recommendations broadly can be classified into two broad categories based on the Nature of the Recommender.
- Academic LOR.
The Academic Letter of Recommendation (LOR) provided by a faculty member of your previous institute. Usually, universities ask for you to provide two or three LORs from your previous institute (this could be your teachers from your schools in case of undergraduate courses and professors from your college/University in case you are applying for masters' programs). The Letter of Recommendation from faculty often varies in the content and requires the professor to highlight the applicant’s accomplishments as a student of the course.
- Professional LOR
Most of the universities have a pre-defined work experience requirements for MBA admission. Accordingly, they request a Professional Letter of Recommendation from an immediate supervisor. The Professional Letter of Recommendation from a supervisor varies from an Academic LOR in terms of some specific content that focuses on the applicant’s ability to work within a team, the exposure to the domain, as well as his/her leadership abilities-All necessary to MBA course, applied for.
How to write a Letter of Recommendation (LOR)
Unless and otherwise specified, a letter of recommendation is a 400-500 word essay which talks about the candidate's strengths and weaknesses. There are some things you must include in a Letter of Recommendation like the nature of association as well as the tenure of association. Apart from that, there are some basic formats which must also be kept in mind. Most of the universities require this letter to be on the official letterhead. For an Academic LOR - the university's letterhead is required and for a Professional LOR - the letterhead of the company. What is 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 either 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 to.
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. Making an Impressive Letter of Recommendation is as important as writing a winning SOP.
Letter of Recommendation (LOR) Format from Faculty.
LORs or Letter of Recommendations is usually either in question and answer format. While the question and answer format may vary from university to university, the running formats are standardized. They are usually about 400-500 words and divided into 4 equal paragraphs. Though both Academic and Professional LOR may vary in content, the structure/ format is also differentiable.
For Academic LORs, in the first paragraph, provide the following details (of the recommender) - designation, department and college name affiliated to university name. Also, write the capacity in which the recommender has been associated to you along with the number of years/duration of your association with him/her. In addition, mention the subjects the recommender taught you along with the semesters. In the case of the project guide, write the name of the project undertaken under his guidance and the semester when it was undertaken.
In the second paragraph, please mention your project, seminar, workshop, internship, etc. (their names along with your contribution to them) this recommender would like to talk about. Ask the recommender to explicitly mention what about these impressed him/her. If the recommender is your project guide, he must write about the project he guided you on and what about your role in the project he finds worth mentioning and why.
In the third paragraph, quote 1-2 instances from the classroom where your participation/contribution/involvement impressed this faculty. You may provide examples of classroom discussions or any query raised by you which ended up clearing others’ doubts as well. You may also provide an instance from the classroom where you provided an out-of-the-box solution to a problem that worked in favour of your team/class. You may provide details of just about any activity pertaining to academics you participated in that the recommender wishes to share with the Admission Committee. The recommender may also talk about your entrepreneurship skills and your aptitude for it.
In the fourth paragraph, the recommender must mention your extra-curricular/co-curricular activities and achievements. Usually, you must end your LOR with the Name, Designation, Department, College, City, University, City, Contact and Email details of your recommender.