We have heard often how important the admission essays and/or the statement of purpose (SOP) are to your applications to universities abroad. However, we do not often hear about an equally important (if not more) document called the Letter of Recommendation or an LOR. In spite of the fact that while not all universities abroad would ask for a statement of purpose or an admission essay…nearly all would ask for an LOR or a Recommendation Letter. Depending on the course you have applied for, the recommenders would vary and accordingly the format for LOR would also vary. But…exactly how important is an LOR?
We would try and put some perspective into the document for you. We all know that an LOR is essentially a document that talks about the merits and demerits of your application. Also, a letter of recommendation is often requested for both your job as well as your admissions. Unfortunately the document is almost non-existent in India, leaving students absolutely confused. Also, most of the consultants for admissions abroad also do not emphasize the importance of the document enough. We would request you to think otherwise.
1. It serves as a validation of your resume – both academic and/or professional experiences
Often Universities refer to your Letters of Recommendations as a validation of what all achievements you have written about in your resume. Also, they serve as a proof positive of your work in an organization or your tenure in a college as the LORs are often requested on the official letterheads. (Please refer to Letter of Recommendation Format from Faculty and Letter of Recommendation Format from a Supervisor). For instance, there is a project that you have worked on which received a rather excellent grade in your graduation. While the same might be mentioned in brilliant words in both your resume as well as your statement of purpose, it is a simple judgement that if it was that well received, your professor would surely mention about the same in his/her recommendation letter. (This is also one of the factors that help you answer the all-important question of how to choose a right recommender.)
2. It gives a third person impression of your candidature
A letter of recommendation also talks about your personality and other relevant attributes essential for a student. Mostly, universities require an Academic LOR which is a validation of your abilities as a students and also goes on to substantiate qualities like discipline and dedication towards your studies, the way you respond in class, etc. Essentially, what you include in your LOR offers a perspective of a professor to another professor which adds value to your candidature as a perspective student.
3. It adds valuable insights into your leadership and team abilities
Suggesting that you are a good leader is one thing but in truth only a good recommendation letter can point out to your abilities as a leader. As is often said, you are as good a leader as others think you are! Hence, a Letter of Recommendation! This point is often clearly charted out in a Professional LOR. Most of the universities for their MBA applications require a Professional LOR from your immediate reporting manager/ supervisor. These letters offer a perspective of your leadership and more importantly your abilities to work in teams and also with other teams. This is considered a big requirement especially for MBA and/or Research Based courses abroad, hence adding extra importance to your LORs. No wonder that the top Universities for MBA often put about 8 percent weightage to the LOR submitted by the students.
4. The document also highlights your weaknesses
Most of the LORs which are form based (specific questions that must be answered by the Recommenders) include a pertinent question – The applicant’s shortcomings/ areas of improvements. We don’t have to say how an SOP or an Admission Essay often focusses on your positives and steers clear of the negatives of your application. For instance, it would focus on the subjects you have topped in but not necessarily talk about where you faltered. A recommender is usually advised to provide this information to give an unbiased judgement about your candidature, making it all the more important for the applicant to be extra careful in choosing his/her recommender. Not only that, a student should understand what all should be included in your LOR while asking for a teacher/ supervisor to write the all-important letter of recommendation for you.
Hence, when submitting your recommendation letters, please be certain that these would also be considered in all honesty when deciding your admission. So, while you spend time in writing your essays, be also very careful of the LORs as they can make all the difference.