An LOR carries weight and plays an important role in the application screening process. The applicants’ personal qualities, abilities, aptitude, preparedness, research experience, and so on can be known through LORs whereas their other skills (proficiency in the English language and knowledge in the core subjects) can be assessed through standardised tests such as TOEFL, IELTS, GRE and GMAT. In the light of this, it is fair to say that an LOR is a true reflection of an applicant’s self in the form of a letter sent to a university’s admission team for the trust it has placed in the recommender.
The applicant should have known the recommender long enough and be in good terms with him. The purpose is to get a good LOR that will have a positive impact on the admission team. The first rule is “Choose a person who has a good opinion about yourself and who you think will provide a good recommendation for you.”
The applicant should choose a recommender who is either an authority in his/her field of specialisation or holds an important position as the admission team considers the LOR favourably if it is written by an experienced academic. The second rule is “Approach a senior professor or an experienced academic who is known for their academic calibre for your LOR.”
The third rule is “Constantly follow up with the recommender and gently remind and check with him/her whether he/she has prepared an LOR for you and replied to the university.”
The fourth rule is “Maintain a professional relationship with the recommender.” A good LOR should not exceed one page or 500 words. It is important to use positive language throughout the letter. It has nine parts: Intro, Acquaintance, Positive attributes, Academic achievements, Specific skills, Work and research experience, Psychological maturity, Recommendation and Positive closing.
Guidelines for Writing Letters of Recommendation
Before writing the letter:
In most cases, a recommendation is written by one who honestly write a supportive letter.
A current resume and as complete a description as possible of the position or program to which the person is applying become an absolute necessity for getting the recommendations ready.
Assembling and reviewing all other relevant information is important so that no important matter is overlooked.
Writing the letter:
Present the person truthfully but positively. A recommendation that paints an unrealistic picture of a candidate may be discounted. A recommendation that focuses on negative qualities may do more harm than intended.
Tailor the recommendation to the suit the institute the candidate is seeking admission into. Understanding what the Institute stands for is equally important.
Begin the letter with a description of the candidate being recommended and the specific contexts upon which the evaluation is based. It is important here to mention the proximity and years of association between the recommender and the recommended.
Present the individual’s general qualities relevant to the position along with one or two detailed examples. Including vivid detail will make the recommendation much more effective.
In most cases, a letter of recommendation should consist of three or four paragraphs and not be over one page in length.
The first of a part of an LOR is a good introduction that sets the tone of the letter and attracts the attention of the reader. Phrases such as ‘pleased to write’ can do wonders. In the second part, the writer should explain how long he/she has known the candidate and in what capacity.
In the third part, the recommender lists some relevant positive attributes of the applicant.
In the fourth part, the recommender discusses the academic achievements of the applicant. In the fifth part, the recommender highlights some of the skills the applicant possesses and has demonstrated on different occasions.
In the sixth part, the recommender mentions the research/work experience of the applicant .
In the seventh part, the motivation and maturity level of the applicant and his/her preparedness for the graduate study should be mentioned.
In the eighth part, the recommender should support the candidate’s application and uses the word ‘recommend ’.
As in any correspondence, it is important to close the letter with a positive note. In the final part, the recommender closes the LOR with a positive note and provides his/her contact details which include his/her email address and phone number. A good letter of recommendation can do wonders if written with honesty and not decorated with pomposity.
In accordance with federal laws and university policy, authors of letters of recommendation are asked to refrain from comments regarding candidate’s race, color, gender, religion, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, sexual orientation, national origin, citizenship, medical condition, or political affiliations, beliefs or activities.
Letters should indicate the candidate’s full name. Preferably in the 1st paragraph.
Letters should not reference a particular institution or program.
Letters should be typewritten or word-processed. Handwritten letters do not scan clearly.
Letters should be printed on professional letterhead.
Letters require the writer’s signature. Please use blue or black ink as lighter colors do not scan well.
Letters should conclude with legible identifying personal information: full name, title, institution, mailing address, telephone number and email address. If you provide an e-mail, a confirmation will be sent informing you that we have received your letter.