Common mistakes you should avoid in a Recommendation letter

There are two schools of thoughts that go behind the important of a letter of recommendation in your application. While some believe that the standardized version of LORs make it almost impossible to judge the students’ abilities. Other consultants and a majority of them still believe that becuase of this very reason, it becomes one of the most deciding documents in your application. They believe that often universities go through the LOR’s to ascertain not merely the validity of the student’s claims but also to judge how the student is perceived by his/her peers. As such, the LOR becomes a rather important.

And yet, students tend to overlook this important document. And as a result, while the student might have worked ona brilliant statement of purpose and have his resume in rigth place, the lack of a convincing LOR might just ruin your chances of making the final cut. Here’s to help you in avoiding the common mistakes students make while preparing their LOR.

Choosing the Wrong Recommender

Before you even think about what is going to constitute your recommendation letters, you have to analyze and recognize your recommenders. Your recommender must be someone who knows your strengths and is capable of presenting them to the Admission Committee in the most convincing manner. Choosing a recommender who hardly knows you is the gravest mistake an applicant can make while preparing their LOR. An Assistant Professor who has taught you even one subject during your course may be a better choice as a recommender than the College Principal who may have just seen you participate in a few events in the college. For more details, read How to Choose Your Recommenders.

Not Giving Enough Time to the Recommender

Rushing up your recommender and in turn, expecting him to come up with an impressive and convincing recommendation letter is one of the most common mistakes applicants commit. Request your recommender well in advance of your application timeline and keep reminding them after regular intervals. The minimum time you must allocate for your recommenders should be a month. Approaching them at the last minute and forcing them to write your recommendation letter without giving them enough time to study and analyze your candidature would be unfair to your own application, as the last minute hurry would definitely reflect on your recommendation and weaken your chances of securing a seat.

Not validating your candidature with examples

An LOR devoid of example/instances does not hold much value in your application process. A recommender who incessantly praises the applicant in the recommendation letter either simply does not know what an LOR means or he is genuinely hard pressed for time. Either ways, the recommender remains unsuccessful in doling out a convincing LOR and the whole point is defeated. Whenever a recommender praises the applicant in the letter, it must be followed by a particular example/instance to validate it. For example, if the recommender says that “ABC is one of the select students who have shown penchant for application of theoretical concepts taught in the class.” Now, this one is so generic that it hardly contains any worth. What a recommender should ideally do is to back this statement up with an example of any theoretical concept you implemented practically in the class or lab. The recommender should also mention the result of the experiment and what about the instance impressed them. For more, go through How to Prepare an Impressive LOR and What to Include in LOR.

More than anything, what a candidate must ensure is a genuine letter of recommendation. Never agree to provide your recommender with a standard format. Let your recommender share his/her own perspective about your personality.

Missing out on your areas of improvement

Using too many positive terms in the LOR leads to uncertainty and doubt in the mind of the Admission Committee. Nobody is stopping you from using positive words for your candidature but knowing the limit is the key. Also, mentioning only the positive aspects of your personality and omitting the negative traits also does not leave any positive impact on the Committee. So, make sure you include at least one weakness of yours in the LOR and for god’s sake, don’t use the clichéd “ABC, being a perfectionist, ends up pressurizing himself as well as his team members.” For better clarity on the topic, read Common Errors in LOR.

Using a Cold Dry Tone While Writing the LOR

Although an LOR is a formal document, the recommender should maintain a level of warmth while preparing it. Using the applicant’s full name at the start of the LOR followed by addressing them by their first name in the rest of the draft instead of “The applicant” is always a good idea.


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