LOR Common Mistakes

Getting an LOR ready is not a simple task. In fact, it is one major milestone in your MS application that requires a lot of your time and planning. While the importance of an LOR is unquestionable there are a few common mistakes that applicants tend to commit while applying. Here is a list of the Most Common and Repeated LOR Blunders.

Mistake #1: Not writing an individualised LOR

The easiest trap to fall into is that of copy-pasting a generic LOR from the internet. Not only does this seriously impact your chances of an offer letter, but also wastes a golden opportunity to showcase your talents and skills.

Mistake #2: Choosing the wrong referee

While it is tempting to get an LOR from that cool, funny professor who taught you in your third semester, chances are, it might not do you any good. Your referee must both know you well, and be properly qualified to write your reference.

GREedge Pro tip: choose professors who have a Ph.D. or a postdoctoral degree. An MPhil is no doubt good, but given how competitive graduate admissions can be, a PhD is a bare minimum.

Mistake #3: Repeating your SOP & Resume

Your LOR must not simply be a rehash of your SOP and CV. While there can be some overlaps, your LOR must bring in a fresh new perspective on you as a student and grad school aspirant by talking about qualities and skills not mentioned in your SOP. Writing an LOR that only repeats what is given in your Resume would certainly inhibit your chances of getting admitted in an MS program. The purpose of the LOR is to sketch your complete personality in the mind of the admission officer without you having to speak a word. So, repeating facts and figures given in your resume would make the admission officer feel that the official who has written the LOR is distant and does not share a healthy relationship with the applicant.

Recommendation letter example:

“To the Admission OfficeI am happy to recommend Mr Jai Shah. He has scored an average CGPA of 3.8 out of 4 and is a gold medalist in mathematics…..”

GREedge Pro tip: Your referee must make a clear note of your preparedness for graduate school and your suitability for any scholarship. Otherwise, there’s hardly any difference between your SOP and your LOR.

Mistake #4: Inability to maintain proper protocol

Your LOR must be typed (not handwritten) on the university letterhead and placed inside a sealed envelope. Otherwise, the authenticity of your LOR is questionable.

Mistake #5: Lack of relevant information

Ensure you supply your recommender with enough information about yourself. Send in your SOP, CV and any other certificates to help them draft a winning LOR. Make sure you give your referee at least a month’s time to write the letter. A rush job is a bad job, after all.

Keep a list of backup referees, so if one of your primary referees declines, you have other options. Supply all the information they may need in a neatly typed-out Word document.

Mistake #6: Spelling mistakes

Spelling mistakes are a big no-no. It may raise doubts about the credibility of the individual who is recommending you. Ensure you check your LORs multiple times for spelling and grammatical errors.

Mistake #7: Politically incorrect language

Today, one has to be extremely mindful about hurting sensibilities. One may inadvertently end up hurting others by using certain phrases or words.

“To the Admission Officer

I am delighted to recommend Mr. Aslam Querishi’s application for your prestigious MS program in Information Management. ……

….He is a kind-hearted person. He has created an application which helps mentally challenged individuals such as those suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder Depression etc to play games and spend their time productively.”

Imagine that the Admission Officer reading this is suffering from Asperger Syndrome. The applicant might have his sympathies but this letter could displace the admission officer’s temperament for a while and impact Aslam’s chances of getting admitted.

The individual writing a recommendation may not be well versed with the nuances of English Language. But the applicant will have to take special care in ensuring that such sentences are not a part of the LOR especially if the person offering a LOR is known to have limited command over the English language.

Mistake #8: The letter is too short

An appropriate letter of recommendation should be around a page long – which mean around 500 to 600 words when written on an A4 page. Sometimes, Universities may specify the number of words which makes it easier. A study that assessed several letters of recommendations indicated that the more detail in the letter, the better for the applicant – which meant that as long as the details in the letter are relevant, a longer letter could be favourable for the prospective student.

However, a recommendation that is hardly half a page would seem as if it has been forcibly written. A golden rule to keep in mind is that a letter of recommendation should be crisp enough to be captivating for the reader yet long enough to cover the important parts.

Let us consider an example:
Dear Admissions Committee,

It is my great pleasure to recommend Mr Rajiv Joshi to your college. I taught Rajeev when he was in the second year of BTech. He has been a committed student who has been helpful to others and has impressed me with his consistency and dedication.

Apart from scoring well in academics, Rajiv also has been the head of the students’ committee. He has always put forth the grievances of the students to the relevant authorities and has made a significant difference in improving the facilities for day scholars.

Rajiv has also taken part in several extra-curricular activities and won acclaims for our institute. He is a talented coder and has assisted some of my fellow professors in their projects.

He is confident, motivated, kind and sincere. I am certain that his future is bright and he is meant for great things. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at abc@gmail.com


Professor Ramesh W

Computer Science Department

Institute of Engineering.
Undoubtedly the candidate – Rajiv Bhat has immense potential. Unfortunately, the letter written by his professor seems like a buffet which only served lip-smacking soup and delectable starters but kept the patrons hungry for more.

There we are! These are the most common LOR mistakes that aspirants tend to commit.
Keeping track of the progress of your LOR and matching it with mistakes now and again will help you ensure you jump the pitfalls that most applicants don’t pay heed to.

Go ahead and check out the experts’ guidelines to craft an admit winning LOR.

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