If you are submitting a MS/PhD application for admission in the USA, this is for you. Today, I am going to share one tip associated with the “Letters of Recommendation” required, which I think can make a lot of difference.
First, let me get something’s out of the way.
1. The Letters of Recommendation is to be written by an independent 3rd party. On no account should you write and provide the LoRs by yourself. This is an ethical issue so let us respect the process.
2. The system allows you to decide whether you want to see the letters once submitted or ether there you prefer to waive your rights to do this.
I, personally, advocate for you to waive your rights. Even if you see the final LoRs, it will still have been submitted. Anyways, your decision is final.
3. USA Schools typically request for 2 - 3 Letters. This implies that you have to contact and follow-up with 2 - 3 individuals - until you get the letters in there. I understand that this can be a Herculean task which is why I am going to provide a useful tip.
Previously, I have written an article on Letters of Recommendation (derailing the process, contents and entire requirements), you may want to read it here: How To Obtain Effective Letters Of Recommendation.
Guiding your Recommenders on Information
Now, that I have that out of the way, let us talk about “Guiding your Recommenders on Information”.
Bonus Tip: Your entire application (including supporting documents, data page & test certificates) forms one unit. It is basically seen as one pdf and printed/assessed in a file.
This implies that you dont need to repeat information everywhere (perhaps for emphasis). E.g, if the name of your BS degree (with concentration) is already in your resume, there is no need to spell it out (in full) in your statement of purpose. You can just refer to the “degree”
Another Example: If you finished with a First Class Honors Degree (>=4.5 out of a 5.0 scale), do not go about writing the same “Grade Information” everywhere. You can spread the details. Focus on other interesting things that makes your achievements special.
Back to LoR!
Now, that you get the idea regarding the “need to avoid repeating information”, you need to be strategic with your LoRs.
First of all, when making your choice of recommenders, you should have an idea about what they can likely say about you, e.g, academics, professional work...
..., etc either as a former/current manager, Lecturer, Professor or Supervisor. With this in mind, it will do you a lot of good to share, with them, things you will like them to consider writing about. This helps them identify areas to focus on.
Just like the folks at @gradschoolmatch explained, if you do not do this, you will be “missing the opportunity to have a discussion about your strengths, what makes you a good fit for the program and particular examples to showcase”
You certainly do not want a lukewarm letter because Graduate School Admission Committees read LoRs more carefully.
“Lukewarm letters that do not focus on your unique strengths will hurt even a strong application”. - @gradschoolmatch
So, send that email today and have that discussion.
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