LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION – An overlooked component of College Applications

Finally, you’re going through the application process for your shortlisted University. There it is — staring right back at you from the “To Be Submitted” list of your application — the Letter of Recommendation.

And they don’t stop with asking you for one — no, they want two or three.

What do you know about a letter of recommendation?

A letter of recommendation is a document describing skills, achievements and personality of the aspirant to assess them for the particular function or task. The university or admission officer, whom it is addressed to, is called Addressee and the person who writes it for you is called as Referee.

Post submission of numerous documents for the application process, you wonder, “What more could they want to know about me?” A recommendation letter will reveal the real you that test scores and grades may fail to do. It provides the University with interesting opinions of your personality and it shows that there are people who are willing to speak on your behalf. The right Letter of Recommendation will present you to the University in the best possible light — highlighting all your abilities and skills.

From whom to take the letters of recommendation?

Recommendation letters should be taken from teachers who know you very well and those who have worked with you over a long duration of time (2-3 years). Preferably your project guide, academic adviser or your mentor. Higher the designation of the recommender more would be the value of your recommendation letter.

A holistic Letter of Recommendation has the following components:

  • Official letterhead
  • Qualification and title of the referee
  • Relation to the aspirant
  • Referee’s and Aspirant’s areas of expertise/excellence.
  • Details of projects done together
  • Skills and behavior traits portrayed
  • Affirmation of the recommendation
  • Contact details

Bear in mind that there may be many applicants with similar scores and your Letter of Recommendation could make you stand out. Being another face in the crowd could cost you an admission offer — so use this as an opportunity.

There are two ways to submit your letter of recommendation; online or offline. Most Universities require the recommendation letters to be uploaded online by your recommenders.

Almost every University has electronic method of application now. They DON’T prefer sending the Letters of Recommendation (LOR) by mail. Some Universities do require hard copies of your transcript, but even they don’t ask for hard copies of LOR. This is primarily because you are not supposed to know what your recommender is writing about you.

The procedure varies from university to university. So first get to know what is the procedure of submitting the LOR for each university.

Contents of the letter of recommendation

The length of the recommendation letter must not be more than one page. Keep the letter concise and to the point. Make sure the following skills are highlighted in the letter:

  • Academic interest and potential
  • Intelligence
  • Communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Ability to face challenging situations
  • Extra-curricular activities
  • Team player

What is the right time to submit your Letter of Recommendation?

It is better to be an early bird, when it comes to arranging a letter of recommendation. Make sure, it is well written with a lot of thought, without any rush. The key is to ask the referee in the start of your senior year and submit at least a month before the deadline.

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