Based on the requests of our readers and the feedback provided by students, this series of articles looks at an important component of international admissions — the letter of recommendation! Every article in this series will look at a specific aspect of the letter of recommendation and will help students in clarifying any queries they may have.
The 'Letter of Recommendation' or LoR as it is popularly known as is an important part of every international student’s admission application. Most institutions require a minimum of two if not more LoRs to be submitted. These LoRs are examined and play a critical role in the institution approving the applicant’s admission. A LoR should describe the student’s talents and skills and highlight the academic/employment relationship between the student and the referee.
Shortlisting an Ideal Referee
A LoR should not be taken lightly; asking friends and relatives to write a LoR would be detrimental to the student’s application. So who would be the best person to write a LoR? The following pointers should help students decide the ideal referee.
- The student should have worked closely with the referee; ideally the referee should have been the student’s lecturer or academic guide.
- The student and referee should have a good academic relationship and the referee should have a good impression of the student.
- Getting a LoR from someone who shares a ‘love-hate relationship’ with the student is pointless as the referee may provide negative feedback about the student.
- Getting a LoR from a reputed person, whether an academic or celebrity, under whom the applicant has not studied/worked may be construed as a gimmick by the admissions team and may back-fire.
- Get the LoR from someone who has a flair for writing; a poorly written LoR creates a bad impression.
- If the applicant is submitting a LoR written by a former employer, the applicant can request the employer to highlight the applicant’s career achievements.
Hence the best referees would be the student’s academic supervisors, lecturer/professor or the immediate reporting head if the student has prior work experience.
The LoR should highlight the student’s merits, efficiency and leadership skills; and present a positive picture to the reader.
Students should shortlist ten to twelve potential referees and then further examine the list to understand who would be best placed to provide a good description of their skills through a LoR. Once this is done it is advised that the student goes and meets the potential referee in person and asks them to write the LoR.
Students must also ensure that the referee knows the course that the student plans to study. It will be comical if the student aspires to study nuclear physics and the referee writes something to the effect — 'He/she plans to study Bio-chemistry…'
A very important point for students to note — NEVER EVER fake a LoR by writing the letter on your own and just adding someone else’s signature to it. It is legally a crime and the repercussions that will follow will not be pleasant.
The next article in this series will provide tips to students on how to meet a potential referee and ask for a letter of recommendation!
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