We finally come to the last article in this series on the ‘letter of recommendation’; this article is on the ‘dos and don’ts’ of writing a letter of recommendation and offers tips on drafting the perfect LoR.
This has been structured in a sequence of bullet points for ease of reading and you may also wish to print this out and keep it handy for quick reference.
What to Do?
- Only mention the truth in the letter.
- Ensure that you give the referee enough time to write the letter.
- Choose a referee who has spent time with you and knows about your academic and professional achievements.
- Ensure that the letter is written in crisp and simple to understand English.
- Ensure that all information stated in the letter matches with your academic scores.
- Any specific achievements related to the course you wish to study should be mentioned.
- If the institution has specified a word-limit; ensure that it is adhered to and does not become a huge essay.
- Take a back-up copy of the letter on a USB-drive as a precautionary measure.
- Ensure that the letter is sent well before the deadline date.
- Spend some time with your referee and give him / her any inputs that they require to draft the letter.
- Personally thank your referee for completing the letter.
What NOT to Do?
- Do not fabricate tales in the letter.
- If the institution has stipulated that you as the applicant should not read the letter; please don’t read the letter.
- Do not fake the letter by writing it yourself and putting someone else’s signature; it is illegal.
- Do not get a letter written by a referee who does not know anything about your academic or professional achievements.
- Do not let the letter become a ‘bragging session’.
- Do not rush to find a referee at the eleventh hour - the letter may cause more harm than good.
- Do not wait for the last minute to send the letter; give ample time for the letter to reach the institution.
- Do not forget to thank your referee.
The Ten Commandments:
A step-by-step guide to getting a letter of recommendation:
- As soon as you decide to apply to an institution or multiple institutions - print out a schedule of the application deadline; and stick to the schedule.
- Next go through your list of contacts to short-list ideal referees.
- Contact the referees personally; explain your course and institution choice and request for a letter of recommendation.
- Choose a referee who can write well; a badly written letter of recommendation can cause all your academic dreams to crash.
- Be very clear by what date you need the letter and follow-up with regular reminders.
- Ensure that you share all relevant academic / professional achievement details with the referee.
- If the institution has a word-limit for the letter; please request your referee to stick to the word-count.
- Take a back-up copy of the letter.
- Ensure that the letter is posted / couriered / emailed well in advance of the deadline date as stipulated by the institution.
- Always remember to thank your referee and keep them posted of your admission / acceptance at the institution of your choice.
We hope that you found this series of articles helpful and offered you a clear idea of whom to approach to get your letter of recommendation written. You may also like to read our series of articles on the next important component of your application; the ‘Statement of Purpose or SOP’.
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