Letter of Recommendation – A Crucial Document for Applying to a Foreign University

Posted on April 29, 2015 by Akshay Study Abroad in Applications, Study Abroad

One of the requisite and crucial documents that an aspirant of undergraduate/ graduate/ doctoral education in countries viz. the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Canada, etc needs to submit to a university, is letter of recommendation/ recommendation letter/ reference letter/ letter of reference.

Generally, an applicant needs to send recommendation letters from 3 recommenders who could either be the applicant’s faculty member – professor, teacher or project guide or applicant’s employer and senior (in case the applicant was or is employed).

Purpose of a Recommendation Letter

In a recommendation letter, the recommender assesses an applicant’s academic/ scholarly/research capabilities, and potential and personal character. The recommender testifies to the applicant’s appropriateness and preparedness for the aspired program at the aspired institution.

In a recommendation letter, the recommender evaluates the applicant’s candidature for the particular program, his/ her maturity, background, achievements, psychological competence, strengths, and weaknesses.

The recommender can talk about specific instances where the student challenged himself/ herself, displayed true passion for an academic subject or activity, achieved something commendable and showed character of great strength.

A recommendation letter may also include any anecdote that epitomizes the applicant’s abilities, character, and persona.

Importance/ Significance of a Recommendation Letter

Universities/ schools don’t just rely on grades, test scores and resumes as a means of determining the quality and caliber of an applicant. They always want to see how well individuals speak about the applicant’s work ethic, experience, intelligence and personality. American professors (and others on the selection committees) are very interested in getting in-depth information about an applicant because once they admit him/ her, they are going to have to interact with him/her in classrooms, labs and other contexts; and they will have to work with the applicant’s potential (and live with his/ her problems!) for the next 3-5 years.

Most importantly, they want to ensure that the students that they admit will bring credit (and not discredit) to the institution. A recommender who knows an applicant really well can tell them which of those outcomes it is going to be. They, therefore, give great weight to the depth of association that the recommender has with the applicant. Thus, a recommendation letter plays a compelling and significant role in applications.

An efficient recommendation letter: verifies experience, confirms competence, builds credibility, bolsters confidence. Since an ideal recommendation letter provides a more detailed sense of the applicant in and out of the classroom, it presents a well-documented evaluation, providing sufficient evidence and information to help a selection committee in making its decision.

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