Best Letter of Recommendation(LOR) Format for MS: How Should It Be?
Your LOR (letter of recommendation) is a document that is a pivotal factor in your application. It helps the university admissions committee to evaluate you as a person – in terms of character, conduct, behavior and interpersonal skills.
Think of it this way:–
- Your GPA shows the university your academic potential;
- Work experience and research papers illustrate your professional skills;
- Exam scores display your mathematical prowess, command over the English language, IQ and logical reasoning abilities;
- The SOP illustrates your journey in your own words;
However, none of these are accurate representations of what it is like to actually work with you, as a person! Your LOR fills in this gap by presenting your personality and traits better, in the eyes of those who have had past experience of mentoring or working with you, along with a validation of the above. The admissions committee looks for letters of recommendation to know more about your USPs, without you having to speak about it yourself.
Now that you understand what an LOR is, let’s understand who you must approach to provide you with a letter of recommendation.
Whom should you approach for your LOR?
The question of whom it must be undersigned by is different for each applicant, stream and applicant.
It’s important, however, to understand that you must share a close equation with the individual, as only then will he/she be able to say the right things about you. While validating the already stated facts with your other documents, they must be able to furnish an insight that is not conveyed in your application by any other means.
For students who have just completed their undergraduate program (no work experience): It must be someone who can relate and vouch for you, in terms of your academic background, and journey so far. You can approach a professor, the head of the department, the dean or the director of the institute where you have pursued your education. The credibility of their words would be much more than that of a school teacher that once taught you or a professional from the outside world whom you cannot trace a direct link to.
For working Professional: It’s always good to obtain the letter from a superior who you have closely associated with at work. He must hold a certain reputation and position in the company that adds to his authority as a recommender. He must not only iterate on your relationship and skills observed as a professional but, also on the character front.
What must it say, after all?
- The letter is and must sound like a report of a personal association of the referrer with the student.
- It can talk about certain anecdotes, incidents or even narratives that need not directly harp on the student’s skills, but rather demonstrate it with the help of an event.
- The letter must choose a style of writing that is very simple and effective
- It must not sound narcissistic to the admissions committee in any way
- It should mention the qualities that can’t otherwise be judged by other parts of the application, making it an opportunity to say more rather than to repeat the already stated. For example – the admissions committee already knows your GPA, work experience, rankings, and other major achievements; however, the factors that set you apart from the competition are seldom found elsewhere and must be focused on in your LORs.
Tips and Common Mistakes:
- The language should be clear, crisp and making no attempts to be ornate, overtly-impressive, misleading or offensive.
- The content shouldn’t conflict with the identity, purpose or intent of the letter.
- It should not have any grammatical mistakes.
- Must not be repetitive about the content, facts, figures or achievements
- Should focus on the course you are aiming for and must be drafted in accordance with the same
- It must bear in mind that no sentiments – emotionally, personally or politically are hurt or targeted, even unintentionally
- Word limits, if specified by the university, must be strictly adhered to.
- The length of the letter must be at least a page long in print (A4 page)
- The credibility of the recommender must not be compromised in the letter
- It must be revised, read and reconsidered again and again
- The recommender may or may not have a letter of recommendation template, in which case, you must – as an applicant – request your referrer to use one that suits your application and objective
- The LOR format must be decided prior to writing it to ensure that the flow is right.
Let’s consider a well-drafted sample letter of recommendation:
Analyzing the above letter:
It is carefully divided into paragraphs:
- The first paragraph introduces the student and his academic records that validate the other documents submitted and sets a premise for the relationship between the recommender and the applicant
- The second paragraph is the major content holder that narrates an incident and tries to build an image of his character while subtly pointing out his interests, achievements and major achievements outside of academics
- The last paragraph concludes with a very impactful end to the story, that allows the admissions committee to get a decent idea about the applicant.
How to format an impressive Letter of Recommendation?
The first impression is the best impression. The last thing you want is for the admissions committee to struggle with reading your letter owing to illegible printing or poor and confusing sentence construction. It should be formatted in a formal, yet appealing way. You should leave no room for the admissions committee to judge or form a negative opinion of you based on an improper format of the letter.
Here are few basic pointers that you can be cautious about when drafting the letter:
- The font used must be formal with no fancy formatting being used anywhere on the document.
- Use a font size of around 11 that is clearly readable on an A4-sized paper
- Printing your text in black is the safest choice. However, you may use a 2nd color, dark blue, for instance, to highlight anything that you wish to. However, using bold and italicized text is the best way to highlight points.
- Ensure to use office-style margins of around 1″ on all four sides of the document.
- Paragraph-spacing and alignment must be such, that at no point should the reader have to break the flow of his reading to understand the direction or lead of the content, i.e., it must allow for smooth and effortless reading.
- Available templates for letters can be used to enhance readability.
You must remember that it’s not just ‘what’ is being said that matters – ‘how’ it’s said is just as important.
We hope that these pointers will help you with drafting a well-formatted letter of recommendation for your application and wish you all the best with the admissions process!
Have any questions? Leave them as a comment below, and we’ll get back to you with answers at the very soonest!