ip target image
You are currently browsing our site with content tailored to students in your country

Our cookies

We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience with personalized content, relevant ads and enhanced functionalities. By allowing all you agree to the use of cookies as per the cookie policy and remember you can manage your preferences anytime.
The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

Top 10 tips to make your reference letter stand out in a university application

share image

An integral part of an application process is the reference letter. Although it is often considered not as important as the A levels or Polytechnic Diploma, references are valuable because they help admission committees to make an opinion about an applicant aside from his or hers academic records.


Different universities have different requirements for the recommendation letters. While some are interested only in referrals from your teachers, others require recommendation letters from current or previous employers. This is especially important for those who wish to take an MBA course.


However, there are universities, like Columbia University, which often ask for more a recommendation from a peer or someone you were engaged in a project aside from your work place. Such recommendations will help these universities evaluate your social skills. 


Whoever, you choose to write your recommendation letter might make or break the possibility of your entry into that dream university. So remember to choose wisely! Hotcourses Singapore knows how important recommendation or reference letters is to ensure a successful application to a university, so we have lined up 10 tips towards getting that great recommendation letter.


1. The person you choose should know you well. The more insight a professor has into you as a student and a person, the better your recommendation will be. 


2. After you have asked your peer, employer or professor to be your referee. Talk to them. Explain your motivation for further studies. If you have a particular university or college in mind, give details to your referrer about your choice and why you think you will be a good candidate for that university. Discuss your choice and ask for advice.


3. Provide your referee with a list of your accomplishments, CV or any other information you think will be important to mention.


4. Be different! US Admission counsellor William Tran told Hotcourses Singapore: ‘The more personal and specific the letter the better. I'll read a bunch of recommendations that will say generic adjectives like "conscientious" or "intelligent". That means nothing to me because every student (I hope) is intelligent, asks questions in class, or is passionate about learning.’


5. Do not list down your achievements! Tran said that letters that include personal, deep stories with unique characteristics that no other student shares would garner the interests of the academic committees.


6. Do not be generic. A letter with common adjectives doesn't help or hurt since most students have them but everything else equal, a student with a bland personality is at a disadvantage.


7. Do not get recommendation letters from “big names” unless you have worked with them and they have first-hand knowledge of your accomplishments. Jay Bhatti in his article  An Inside Look at the Brutal Business School Admission Process comments: ‘We have gotten recommendations from senators, CEOs, and world leaders. Unless the applicant worked directly for the recommender, these letters of reference are usually very vague and un-insightful. It’s better to get a reference from someone who has had direct supervision responsibility over you and can talk about your accomplishments with firsthand knowledge.’


8. Give your referees plenty of time to write your letter. You should also provide them with a large envelope containing all necessary forms, with each form accompanied by a stamped, addressed, business-sized envelope and a list of the schools and deadlines. Each form’s due-date should be made absolutely clear.


9. Thank the referee for taking the time to write your reference letter.


10. Inform the referee about the results of your university application.



Must read

article Img

IELTS vs. TOEFL: Which should you take?

All international students who want to study in an English-speaking country need to show they have the required level of English. There are a few English language exams that are accepted by universities all over the world, we’re going to focus on two of these: IELTS and TOEFL.   Before we continue, let’s look at what these names mean. IELTS is the International English Language Testing System. TOEFL is the Test of English as a Foreign Language.

article Img

Applying to university: Essential documents you need

You’ll learn as an international student, that nothing can be done unless you can successfully prove who you are. In countries where immigration policy and security are of utmost importance, this can be easier said than done, with long procedures involving lots of paperwork and waiting.   Originals vs. Copies However, you can make things a lot easier for yourself if you keep to hand a file containing the following important documentation. This

article Img

Understanding English language test scores

If you’ve been researching and investigating studying abroad you’ll know by now that being able to demonstrate your English language proficiency is an essential part of the application process if you intend to study at an English medium university. Universities require you to submit scores from approved English language tests to show that you can meet the criteria needed for academic study.   One thing that can prove tricky is understanding how the