When applying to MS/PhD Programs in the USA, you need 2 - 3 Letters of Recommendation (LoR).
They are very critical to your admission and funding/scholarships decisions.
- What is a LoR
- Who should write it
- How to get a Professor or Manager to Write an EFFECTIVE LoR
The situation applicants face with letters of recommendations is not usually talked about as much as it should. People focus mainly on the GPAs, GRE/TOEFL or/and Statetement of Purpose. However, I am aware that these letters are very critical to whether you are admitted or not.
Also, I know that when you need those letters, people want to know who can write them an effective one. Others do not know who to even get these letters from. These are existential questions. Don’t fret, I will attempt to smoothen things out.
Keep reading. Let’s start with :
What a Letter of Recommendation (LoR) is
It is basically a letter that provides people, who have an established relationship to you, to tell the admission letter what they think of you. Hence, it should be detailed and expressive.
The rule of thumb is that a well written LoR should tell that the admissions committees things that they cannot find in other parts of your application. “These can include personal qualities, accomplishments, and experiences that make you unique and perfect for the programs to which you've applied”.
The catch is that information here should be those that cannot just be gotten from your transcript or standardized test scores.
See more: What You Need to Know About Grad School Recommendation Letters
I will provide some examples.
An example are your soft skills. These can include academic abilities, research experiences, to applied experiences in and out of class. Your recommenders can call our specific achievements and impacts.
See: Graduate School Recommendation Letter Templates and Examples for some key point and guidance.
Who schools expect to write the letters of Recommendation
Now, since you are not the one writing the letters. Let me explain who schools expect to write the letters, and how you can get an effective letter submitted in time.
Stay with me.
Typically, schools indicate that they want to have at least one letter from a Professor (or a lecturer in a research intensive university). If you are still <2 years from graduation I advise you provide at least 2 academic references. If you have work experience and a supervisor/manager who knows you so well to write an effective letter, you can request for one from them.
For people with > 2 years post graduation, industry based references can form majority of the letter count. A strong and effective letter is better than a weak one.
Now, that we have treated who should send it in, let me share some templates I dug out during my research.
See them here: Graduate School Letter of Recommendation Template – with Samples
Another set of templates are seen here: Here is a Sample Reference Letter to Use for Graduate School.
How to request for LoRs from either a lecturer/Professor or from industry based individuals
Now, let us talk about how to request for LoRs from either a lecturer/Professor or from industry based individuals (Supervisors/Managers). Now, you need to ref elect on your previous relationships with people back in school or at work. Figure out who you can reliably approach.
Let me expand on that a bit.
Remember that the LoR should contain information about your work, goals, motivation, and how you favorably compare you with your peers. The implication of this is that the Recommender should know you very well. They should also be well known.
Since we now know what should be in this letters and who should write them.
How do you contact recommenders and provide them with the information they need to provide you with effective LoR?
First step: You need to set up a meeting/write them an email to request for a LoR.
In your email or meeting, explain why you think they can provide you with the letter, and ask the person if they will be willing to provide you with one. Please, do not ask too close to the submission/admissions deadline. I suggest you ask at least 1 month ahead.
In order to ensure that the LoR contains all the information you want the admission committee to know, you need to provide your recommenders with all relevant information. They simply will not remember everything concerning you be default. For a list,How to Get Recommendation Letters for Grad School.
You also need to share a document containing the degree programs you are applying to. Also, ensure that the schools send the email requests to your recommenders early (in advance of the deadline).
When this is done, confirm receipt from them. This is progress.
One other thing is universities will ask you to decide whether you want to waive or retain your rights to see your recommendation letters. There is a school of thought that “confidential recommendation letters tend to carry more weight with admissions committees”. - thoughtco
Keep reminding your recommenders about the deadline as it approaches. Hopefully, your letters go in as scheduled.
Good luck in your applications.