Letter of Recommendation (LOR) Guide for MS, MBA, and More

Yocket Editorial Team

Application documents are essential for students seeking to study abroad. Among the three main categories, including resume, statement of purpose (SOP), and the letter of recommendation (LOR), the third is a crucial endorsement of your skills. That is one of the reasons why all programs, be it  MS, MBA, or PhD, require at least 3 LORs written by professors, managers, or team supervisors. But what exactly is a LOR, and how do you get the best one to add more value to your MS, MBA, or PhD candidature? Read on to understand.

You can also check out LOR for Management Courses

Letters of Recommendation (LORs) are essential to the application process for many graduate programs, including MS, MBA, and PhD programs. LORs provide admissions committees with an expert’s perspective on your strengths, weaknesses, and potential for success in graduate school.

University admissions officers rely on letters of recommendation to assess student potential beyond grades and standardized test scores. Students should carefully select recommenders who can provide meaningful insights into their academic abilities, research skills, and personal qualities. A well-written LOR can enhance a student's application and increase their chances of acceptance.

Universities in foreign countries prioritize student profiles with solid letters of recommendation. But getting the best one from your recommenders can be difficult. So what do we do? Easy! Connect with Yocket Premium and speak with expert advisers to understand how to get the best recommendation letter. 

During the COVID era, several universities worldwide have waived off GRE test scores, and in such context, letters of recommendation play an even more significant role. If you are applying for 2024, LORs can make or break your application. This is precisely why you need expert guidance on how to draft the best documents to support your candidature.

This blog will introduce you to a complete guide on how to get the best letters of recommendation if you’re applying for courses like an MS, MBA, PhD, or more. Read on!

Table of Contents

What is a Letter of Recommendation(LOR)?

A Letter of Recommendation(LOR) is a document issued by your Professor, Project Guide, or Reporting Manager with whom you have worked. A Letter of Recommendation is issued by someone credible testifying for your experience, skills, expertise, and achievements.

A well-drafted LOR from a good recommender can help your application stand out among other applicants since it provides a holistic view of your persona and academic and professional performance. It helps an Admission Officer to gain a better insight into your profile and decide whether you would be a good fit at the institution.

Suggested: Letter of Recommendation for MBA

Types of Letter of Recommendation:

Depending on the context and the designation of a recommender, the LORs can be broadly classified into two categories:

Academic LOR

A Professor, Department Head or Dean at your college or university provides an Academic LOR. It presents an account of your academic performance, achievements, and strengths. Academic recommendation letters must be issued only on the university or college letterhead.

The Academic LORs are more prominent for those planning to apply for a Masters (MS) program. Generally, universities require 2-3 LORs, and applicants should ensure each LOR is distinctive yet relevant to the program they are applying for.

Important attributes to mention in an Academic LOR:

  • Academic performance in a subject
  • Relevant Projects and Research Work
  • Co-curricular initiatives and achievements
  • Specific incidents conveying the expertise or work ethics

Professional LOR

A professional recommendation letter is issued by a former employer, supervisor or reporting manager you have worked with. 

Most Business Schools abroad demand a set amount of work experience from the applicants.  Therefore,  they require professional LORs to evaluate your practical, hands-on skills better. 

A professional recommendation letter differs from an academic one in that it chiefly revolves around your professional and leadership skills. Also, these will be issued only on the organisation's letterhead, duly signed and stamped.

Your recent employer or manager could help prepare a recommendation letter that uniquely paints an impactful picture of your technical and managerial skills.

Essential attributes that you can mention in a Professional LOR:

  • Leadership ability
  • Areas of expertise
  • Soft skills
  • Specific work incidents highlighting your strengths

This video will cover all possible questions related to LORS: Whom to ask for an LOR? When is the right time to get an LOR? What to include in an LOR?, and a lot more!

How do you select a good recommender?

Now that you know about a Letter of Recommendation, its significance, and its types, let’s discuss selecting a recommender that would add the most value to your application.

One of the top queries students have is, ‘Does designation of the recommender matter for LOR?’

Yes, it is significant, but it is not the most crucial factor of your LOR. For example, a college principal may not know you as well as your department head; thus, even though they hold the superior designation, they won’t be able to provide personal accounts of your work and achievements.

Also, it is essential to remember that the universities may contact the recommender later to authenticate the claims mentioned in the letter. So, having a recommender who knows you well can help them better vouch for you.

  • For Academic LOR:

The best practice is to approach professors who taught you subjects related to the program you’re applying for. Also, you can approach the project mentor under whom you have worked for your final project or any other major project or research.

  • For Professional LOR:

Your current/former reporting manager or supervisor, with whom you have worked for an extended period, would be an apt fit as a recommender.

Depending upon the program you are applying for, strategically select 2-3 recommenders that can add the most value to your application.

A good recommendation can come from:

  1. Academic/research project guide
  2. Professors with subjects related to your applied program
  3. Reporting Manager or Supervisor
  4. Departmental Head

Choosing a recommender may be challenging, and it is difficult to develop an idea about what to include in LOR content to please the admissions officer. Don't be concerned! You can explore Yocket Premium and get detailed instructions for every aspect of experts who have worked in this sector for decades and helped tens of thousands of students.

Letter of Recommendation(LOR) Format and Content

Generally, recommendation letters are a 1-page essay of around 400-500 words. Yet, students should check out if the university has any specific guidelines.

Your LOR's formatting and content structure is essential to communicate your message correctly. The content should be divided into 4-5 paragraphs, each covering a unique aspect, and the flow of content should be logical.

Content Structure

  • First Paragraph:

Establish a concrete relationship between the student and the recommender. In what capacity does the recommender know you, and since when? Mention the designation as well as the areas of expertise of the recommender.

  • Second Paragraph:

Mention the strengths and qualities you want to convey. Ensure to provide sufficient examples from the recommender’s experience backing the claims. Academic and other achievements should be mentioned, too.

  • Third Paragraph:

Mention a specific incident highlighting the technical skills, like a project or research work. Co-curricular activities and soft skills can be mentioned, too, if they are relevant to the context.

  • Fourth Paragraph:

Conclude with a summary of all the points discussed in the letter. Provide an endorsement of the student for acceptance to the applied program.

LOR Formatting

Once you have developed the content, document formatting is another aspect to consider. Since most LORs would be viewed on a screen, you should format it accordingly. 

Following are some basic formatting guidelines:

  • Use A4 Page Size
  • Font size should be around 11/12
  • The font color should be black against a white background.
  • Set the line and paragraph spacing properly.
  • Maintain a one-inch margin on the page.

Note: Maintain the same formatting across all the LORs. This will help to create consistency.

You can check out the sample LORs for MS and sample LORs for MBA to better understand the content formatting and structure.

Common mistakes to Avoid in Your Letter of Recommendation(LOR)

  • Mentioning what’s already covered

Each LOR should communicate a unique aspect of your profile from someone credible who has observed your work and performance. Mentioning what has already been said in your SOP, Resume, and other documents will make your LOR less effective.

A good recommendation letter should cover qualitative aspects of your profile that can’t be conveyed otherwise. Like your ability to work effectively in teams and problem-solving skills. These mentions should be substantiated with the recommender’s experience to establish credibility.

  • Choosing the wrong recommender

Often, students choose the wrong recommender, which can hamper the LOR's impact. Remember to select a recommender who can provide maximum value to your application, considering the program you’re applying for.

  • Keeping the same message across all LORs

Universities seek multiple recommendation letters to get a holistic understanding of your profile. This helps them to evaluate your candidature and decide whether you would be a good fit for them.

Students often make the mistake of keeping the same message across all LORs and, thus, send out a flat and monotonous message. Using a fixed template and just filling in the blanks with different recommenders can save time but reduce your chances of acceptance.

Best Practices for Recommendation Letter 

  • Use simple and effective language.

Decide on the message you want to convey through your LOR and maintain a simple yet effective tone and vocabulary of the content.

Using complex vocabulary and stuffing the letter with adjectives can affect the message that you intend to convey. Your recommendation letter should be easy to read and straightforward in its message.

  • Quantify your achievements.

While mentioning achievements and performance, try to present those in numbers as you stood among the top 10% of the batch for XYZ subject; providing data to back up achievements makes your profile stand out.

  • Work along with the recommender.

To help prepare an effective LOR, the student should work with the recommender throughout the process.

Professors or Reporting Managers may need to be made aware of the LOR writing best practices and the context in which they must write the letter. To bridge this gap, a student should research and help the recommender with a set format or pointers you want them to write around.

From the Desk of Yocket

A Letter of Recommendation for an MS, MBA, and many other degrees is a subjective component of a student's application that is crucial in the admissions process. It can sometimes compensate for poor test scores or academic performance and prove that you are more than your GPA

As a result, getting a Letter of Recommendation from your professor, or prior employer with conviction, displaying your worth in your previous employment, and the hard work you've placed in it, and effectively defending yourself in a few hundred words are vital. The more time you spend today preparing your Letter of Recommendation before having it written down by your recommender, the less likely you will have problems later and the less likely you will have to rush. So be motivated and keep writing!

If you need help, click here to speak with our best counselors, who will evaluate your profile for FREE and give you all the essential information to craft the best LORs.

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Frequently Asked Questions About LOR's

What are the most important things to look for in a letter of recommendation?

How do I choose the right people to write my letters of recommendation?

How can I prepare my recommenders for writing my letters of recommendation?

How can I follow up with my recommenders to ensure they submit their letters on time?

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