Letter of Recommendation (LOR) is one of the crucial factors which Universities consider while granting admissions to an applicant.
It is not a sole decider but has great value. Applications are evaluated under two categories: the hard factors or the quantitative elements (like GPA, grades, aptitude test scores, etc.) and the soft factors or the qualitative elements (like essays, statement of purpose, letter of recommendation, etc.).
Different universities have different requirements on the number of LOR to be submitted by the applicant. Generally, 2-3 LORs are asked for, which again depends on the requirement of the University and the program you are applying for, what kind of recommendations, and from whom you need to collect it. Mostly, for undergraduate programs, LOR from your academic professors is needed, but if you are applying for graduate and level above that, LOR from both academic professor and employer is required.
Now, let’s see what universities look for in your LOR.
Is your LOR up to the set standard of the university?
Universities either have an online recommendation system or the traditional LOR. If it is the online system then your recommender will be sent a link in which s/he will answer the questions asked accordingly. Else, if it is the traditional LOR system, then the LOR is to be drafted following the set format of word limits, things to be covered, the introduction-content-conclusion, etc.
Is the content of your LOR appropriate enough to consider your application?
While evaluating the LOR, the words and phrases written are actually evaluated since this is one of the vital documents to consider an application. Whether the content is generic or specific is judged. A good LOR must include specific examples and situations where the recommender must have interacted/worked closely with the applicant. Only generic words praising the character/activity of an applicant won’t add any value.
Is your LOR authentic?
The online system nullifies this question to an extent. But if the LOR is still sent via e-mail or a hard copy is used, then the authenticity of the LOR is checked. Firstly, whether the person making the recommendation is authentic or not is verified. Whether the signature, e-mail id used is authentic or not is also checked. Therefore, it is better not to do any hanky-panky that will close the doors for your application.
Is it actually a recommendation or just a fill in the blanks in a set template?
Universities also tend to check whether a particular recommendation is made based on personal experiences of the recommender and the applicant or just a simple template is being used. It is always impressive to include examples of how the applicant was involved in a particular situation/project and what achievements could s/he make. The universities also check if your LOR matches with others’ LOR (if from the same recommender) so the recommender must not, in any case, make a set template and provide LOR to anyone.
About the Recommender and your relation with him/her.
Who is the person writing your recommendation, what is his/her caliber does really matter while your LOR is being evaluated. Therefore, the LOR must necessarily include a good introduction of the recommender that should include the current position, experiences, awards, and achievements in brief, how many LORs does s/he have drafted so far, etc.
Factors other than the content of the LOR.
Since almost all the Universities these days have online application process, they do have certain other questions and rating systems besides/instead of uploading the LOR. Therefore, whenever you think of the LOR, these factors are to be kept in mind too. The Recommender will be asked certain questions to rate you in numbers or defining statements like ‘strongly recommended or recommend or average or not to be considered’ and so on.
Last but very important point to be taken care of is that you should choose your recommender very wisely. It should be a person who knows you very well. You can always help the recommender by sharing your current interests and thoughts, your CV, certificates of your awards and achievements which will serve as a very good reference points. But if you tend to choose someone who does not know you properly may not be able to write a compelling LOR for you.
While choosing the recommender, you must always be thoughtful enough who would add value to your application process to get into a particular program. For example, if you are applying for engineering degree it is better to take recommendation from your Physics/Science professor instead of English professor. In case of LOR from employer, it is better to choose your supervisor from a job which is related to the subject area of the program you have chose rather than choosing someone with whom you worked as a receptionist.
Here at Education First, we keep organising workshops and seminars with experienced professionals who can guide you with your LOR from time-to-time. Don’t miss to contact us and grab the opportunity!