Letter of recommendation: How to ensure you have a winning recommendation
Letter of Recommendation: All schools ask for Letter of Recommendation (LOR) as an important part of the application process. An LOR binds all the other documents like transcripts, resume and a statement of purpose. A resume lists your accomplishments, transcripts show your accomplishments and a statement of purpose mentions your learning and goals and why the programme is important for you and your preparation for the same. The letter of recommendation is an independent view on all of the above and more.
Usually, universities ask for multiple reference letters. This gives them an opportunity to know the candidate as a well-rounded person with skills which would otherwise be difficult to know from the application documents.
Final year undergraduate students and fresh undergraduates should submit academic LORs only. Candidates with a couple of years of experience should have at least one professional letter of recommendation as well as an academic recommendation. Candidates who have more than a couple of years of experience should have more professional recommendations and at least one academic recommendation. Finally, candidates who have more than five years of experience should have professional recommendations vouching for their interest and knowledge in the chosen field of study.
Step 1. Finding the right person
Before asking someone for an academic LOR, you should know whom to ask for a recommendation. A recommender should be a person under whom you have worked or someone who has supervised or taught you. You may know a big shot personally, but he is not the right person if you have not worked under him or if has not known you academically or professionally. It is also suggested that you do not ask a family member to be a recommender. Family members do not qualify to write letter of recommendations too.
Recommenders should be professionals who have known you for no less than one year. They should not only know you as another student at the school, they should know you as a person, your ways of thinking, your capabilities as a student, your control over the subject they have been teaching. They should also be aware of your future plans.
Academic reference letters can be taken from teachers, supervisors, guides, internship/project supervisors etc. If you are in your last year of the undergraduate programme, ask you Lab Professors, Project Guides, Professors who have taught you the subject you want to do a Masters in.
Team leaders, Managers, immediate Supervisors make the best recommenders for professional Letter of Recommendation.
Who can write your letter of recommendation?
Step 2. When and how to ask
Do not rush. Academicians, teachers, managers are busy people. Therefore, if you want them to give you a letter of recommendation, ask quite early. They should be aware of your academic plans well ahead of the application deadline. It will also save you the time of looking for a recommender at the last minute if the teacher/supervisor is not available to give you one.
Because it is an important document, it is advisable to meet the recommenders in person.
Sample LOR Graduate admission
Step 3. Making recommenders job easy
After the recommender has agreed, make their job easy by aprising them of your plans and your performance in their subjects. Because professors deal with students day in and day out, it will be difficult for them to remember your accomplishments, projects and interests completely. Give them a copy of your resume and statement of purpose to make them aware of your interest in the programme, include a bulleted list of your extracurricular and scholastic achievements preferably those they are aware of. Also, ask them to substantiate the qualities they feel you possess.
Communicate your preferred universities and the choice of programmes that you plan to apply to. Inform your recommender if the university has asked for a particular format, font or font size or question that need to be addressed to in the LOR. Also, inform how the letter has to be sent: email, online recommendation submission link or by regular mail.
Step 4. Deadline and reminder
The recommender should be asked to provide a reference letter about six to eight weeks before the deadline. Inform the recommender about the deadline and give a gentle reminder once a week.
Step 5. Last but not the least
The recommender is doing you a favour by recommending you to the programme. Finally, do not forget to send a ‘Thank you’ note to your recommender.
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