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What is Letter of Recommendation: How to Write the Best LOR

The LOR which stands for Letter of Recommendation is an important part of your application that can influence the admission decision of the admission committee as it allows them to review your capabilities and candidature for the course applied from the recommender’s point of view. Usually you are expected to provide at least 3 LOR’s for courses applied to study abroad for a Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD or MBA Program.

Every LOR should mention the recommender’s nature of association with the student for an instance if the recommender is a professor then it is advisable to mention the subject taught, the years of association and then it should elaborate on all the opportunities that the professor had to evaluate the student’s capabilities. It makes a better impact on the admission officers if every positive trait mentioned is backed up by some evidence or situation where in the recommender was able to assess or deduce the talent or capability of the student.

Selecting the right recommender is very important as it decides what possible recommendations can be made. Hence selecting recommenders that know the student in varied capacities always gives varied reviews on different strengths of the student thus throwing light on the overall personality of the student consequently improving the students prospect for admission.

Overview of Letter of Recommendation (LOR)

A letter of recommendation, also known as a reference letter, provides admission officers with insight into whether the concerned candidate is suitable for a particular post. The post could be a job, an internship, or a Master's or a PhD degree. Even those seeking to engage in volunteer work at any institute may require a well-drafted recommendation letter for MBA.

Importance to Write a Letter Of Recommendation

In any application to secure admission to a university in India or abroad, there are a few vital documents, like a resume, statement of purpose and admission essays. While these are essential in their own right, the recommendation letter is most crucial. This is because it gives credence to your work from a senior or person in authority.

Validation from another person, especially a more experienced person in the field or a person who has worked with you, has a lot of value in academia and the professional world. Their words count as they have personally worked with you and can talk about that experience. Top universities such as London Business School, Stanford University and Harvard Business School give a lot of importance to an LOR as it is one of the factors to learn about a person from a different perspective. 

Students willing to study abroad should, thus, be cautious about whom they ask for a letter of recommendation as this document can make or break their career.

Reason Why is a Letter of Recommendation Written

Writing a letter of recommendation means stating and corroborating a candidate's hard and soft skills. Facets like his/her character, work ethic, attitude and the truth of his/her achievements while at that institute are required to be mentioned in a LOR.

Typically, this letter provides only positive details of any candidate and explains to the admission officer why the candidate in question will suit the university culture. The top business schools require an excellent LOR.

Things to Remember on LOR Writing

Writing a letter of recommendation is quite intimidating, here are some points to keep in mind before you begin drafting a perfect LOR sample for your application.

  • LOR Meaning: Firstly, you should understand the nature of the LOR you are writing. Is it for academic reasons or a testament to their character? Is it for a job or volunteer work? Clarify this with the person who has approached you before you begin to write the letter. Any wrong tone and information could lead to rejection for the person.
  • LOR Purpose: Secondly, understand the purpose of your LOR and find out who you are addressing. Is it a professor or a hiring manager? Depending on the person being addressed, vary your tone and contents of the recommendation letter.
  • LOR Brief: Next, ask for the current resume and description of the position to which they are applying. Only with this data can you correlate the skills of the candidate to the demands of the job or degree course.
  • LOR Questions: Also, ask the candidate if there is any key point or skillset that he/she would like you to mention in the reference letter. Usually, it is a good idea to talk with the candidate about what to write rather than being completely honest about their expertise.
  • LOR Timing: Lastly, find out about the timing by which you need to deliver the letter. Sending across the LOR on time is crucial as any delay can lead to the rejection of the How & Whom to Request a Letter of Recommendation
  • To receive an impressive letter of recommendation, you should ask someone you have a good bond with or someone who has a good impression of you.
  • Students can approach teachers, professors, former bosses or managers, with whom they have an excellent rapport, to write the recommendation letter.
  • After you have made your request, remember to provide the person all the details about yourself. The details must include the highlights of your career, the details of the job, the nature of the post/degree, and a template or sample so they can organise their thoughts accordingly.
  • Given a busy schedule, one may not find time to do justice with the letter of recommendation; so give them a week at least before you expect the letter.

Who Should You Ask for a Letter of Recommendation for Masters?

  • A professor from undergraduate years usually writes a letter of recommendation for master. The department head or the course lecturer will have to write the letter. Sometimes, the letter can be written by former employers. You can even ask teachers from your school to write the letter provided it is in the same subject.
  • For every Master's program, there is usually a pre-set format and stringent rules. A point to note is that you do not ask someone you do not know to write the recommendation letter. The person should be suitably aware of your work and contribution in the field.
  • Candidates application.

Types of LORs

Letters of Recommendation can be broadly classified into two categories based on the nature of the recommender:

1. Academic LOR

An academic LOR is a letter of recommendation provided by a faculty member of your current or previous educational institution. Usually, universities ask you to provide two or three LORs from your previous institution. This could be your teachers from your school in case of undergraduate courses, and professors from your college in case you are applying for Master's or PhD programs. The Letter of Recommendation (LOR) Format from Faculty often varies in content and requires the professor to highlight the applicant's accomplishments as a student of the course. Often, these are more relevant to MS Colleges Abroad or Bachelor Courses abroad.

2. Professional LOR

Most of the MBA Colleges Abroad have pre-defined work experience requirements. Accordingly, they request a Professional Letter of Recommendation from an immediate supervisor. The Professional Letter of Recommendation (LOR) Format from a Supervisor varies from an Academic LOR in terms of some specific content that focuses on the applicants ability to work within a team, the exposure to the domain as well as his/her leadership abilities, all necessary to the MBA course applied for.

Who Needs LORs? Why Do They Need Them?

Any student going to study abroad requires an academic letter of recommendation. Irrespective of the course (UG, MS, MBA, or PhD) and country, every student requires at least three letters of recommendation from either their college or professional background. For UG students, LORs can be taken from teachers, professors, school counsellors or the school principal. For MS students, college professors, internship supervisors, or the team lead/ manager from the company they have worked in, can issue recommendation letters. For MBA students, LORs should be purely professional, especially, if they have experience of three years or more. For MBA and PhD aspirants who have recently graduated from college, they can ask for recommendation letters from their college professors, supervisors, or project guides.

How to write a Recommendation Letter (LOR)?

Unless specified otherwise, a letter of recommendation is a 400-500 word essay that talks about a candidate's strengths and weaknesses. There are some things you must include in a recommendation letter like the nature of the association as well as the tenure of the association. Apart from that, some basic formats must also be kept in mind.

  • Most universities require this letter to be on the official letterhead.
  • For an Academic LOR, the university's letterhead is required and for a Professional LOR, the letterhead of the company is needed.
  • One thing important to remember in the latter case is that the letterhead should be of the company the recommender is working in. This usually creates a problem if your recommender has moved on to another organization. Hence, the student must know how to choose the right recommender.
  • An important point to be kept in mind is that a LOR is not a repetition of an SOP.
  • An ideal LOR is supposed to demonstrate aspects/perspectives of your personality not mentioned in your SOP or resume. Thus, an ideal recommender is the one who knows you well, has personally witnessed the quality of work delivered by you, and has readily agreed to provide specific instances of your valued contribution and excellence.
  • A generic LOR is a strict no-no, as it does not offer much value to your candidature for the program you are applying. Therefore, strong examples form the core of a good LOR.

You must always remember that the Admission Committee peruses through thousands of applications during each intake and yours is one of them. Now, in order to stand out, focus on including your qualities and accomplishments reinforced by real instances.

Another important point here is to endeavour to make all your LORs unique and that can be achieved only if you include unique instances, specific to that particular recommender, in each of them. Making an Impressive Letter of Recommendation is as important as writing a winning SOP.

Just keep the formats in mind and remember the common mistakes you should avoid in a recommendation letter. The recommendation letters for different courses need to be written accordingly. Here are some examples to help you navigate easily:

Letter of Recommendation Sample Guidelines

Typically, a recommendation letter should include five things. These are as follows:

  • Introduction: Describe who you are and what is your relationship with the candidate. Include your position and professional experience.
  • Candidate's strengths: In one paragraph, highlight this candidates core strengths and how he/she can fit the particular program's requirements.
  • Personal story: Detail a small story about the candidate that reveals his/her positive qualities or expertise in the field.
  • A closing statement: End with why the person is a good fit for the organisation/university and how he/she will benefit them.
  • Signing off: Complete the details of the LOR by including your name and contact information, along with an offer to clarify and provide more details.

Letter of Recommendation Sample Format

To write a perfect draft of your LOR sample for applications, take a look at this process more closely.


You may have to find out how to address the person to whom you are writing. If you do not know, go for “To whom it may concern”. In case you do not give the salutation, you can start with the first paragraph of the LOR directly.

Paragraph 1: Relationship with the Candidate & Expertise of the LOR Writer

The first paragraph should talk about how you know the person and why you are qualified to write this recommendation letter. Give details of your qualifications and experience.

Paragraph 2: Candidates Strength

The second section should talk about a candidate's strengths—personal or related to work. You must write depending on the nature of the recommendation, and hence, be as specific as possible

Paragraph 3: Narrate an Incident Highlighting the Candidate's Strength

The third paragraph should include a short story or incident about the candidate that can highlight his/her skills. Typically, the incident should have opened your eyes to the candidate's true potential.

Closing paragraph

End the LOR with a simple statement about why you think the person is a good fit for the institute. It would help if you recommended them in all honesty.

Tips on Writing a Letter of Recommendation

  • Stick to the Submission Guidelines: Every letter of recommendation comes with a specific set of guidelines. These guidelines revolve around the date of submission, the format (PDF or physical letter), or the manner of writing it.
  • Write Your Contact Details: The admission officer may need to contact the person who wrote the LOR at any stage of the interview. He may do so to verify details or ask for additional information. Hence, you should enclose your phone numbers, address and email IDs.
  • Give Only Positive Feedback Unless Asked Otherwise: Unless there is a section about the person's negatives, refrain from talking about it. The goal of a letter of recommendation is to make the candidate stand out in the crowd.
  • Focus on At Least Four Traits: While an in-depth Freudian analysis of the candidate is not required, identify a minimum of four primary traits and two secondary ones. For each attribute, explain with an example of how it is beneficial in a professional or educational setting, as per the scenario.
  • Proofread the Letter: Avoid grammatical mistakes, spelling and punctuation errors. Read the letter of recommendation a couple of times and edit it for mistakes. The letter reflects on you as well, so make sure it is worthy.
  • Request Some Points from the Candidate: Ask the candidate for some pointers that can be given more weightage in the LOR.
  • Include Some of the Terms used in the Job/Degree Description: A letter of recommendation shows how the candidate is suitable for the job or the particular degree. Try to incorporate some of the key terms from the description itself so that the admission officer can directly relate between the candidate's skill set and the requirements of the course.
  • Discuss the Potential of the Candidate: It would help if you discuss the candidate's future potential and how they can benefit the organisation. Describe adequately the person's passion for that field and how they will be an asset to the institution.
  • Use Active Voice: For an impactful and powerful letter of recommendation, utilise active voice. It makes for an easier read. Also, it is possible to write more unambiguous sentences.


Having covered all the necessary and crucial aspects of a letter of recommendation, writing this document should now be hassle-free. Never lie while writing a recommendation letter; the person reading it will usually verify the claims and cross-check every detail. Also, do not exaggerate, as that can be tested at the interview level. Always write with a clear conscience and choose your words wisely.

How to get a letter of recommendation from college?

To get a letter of recommendation from your college, approach the professor in charge of your department. Also, you can talk to any college professor that you have worked with in the past. If you are in your undergraduate years, approach the professors you have a friendly rapport with. On the other hand, if you are currently pursuing a postgraduate degree, talk to the professor in charge of your concerned department. You do not have to go to any academic cell or principal's office to get the same.

How many letters of recommendation are required for an MS in the UK?

You will need to provide at least 2-3 letters of recommendation for MS in the UK. Always choose someone who knows the work you have done and is familiar with it. The person should also be favourable to you and must have a reasonable opinion on you.

What is the use of LOR?

A letter of recommendation provides an insight into your skills, expertise, career and knowledge from a third person's perspective. Hence, a LOR gives candid and honest views into your work and personal lives. Apart from the statement of purpose, it is the only document that corroborates your work and passion for the degree or field of study in question.

What kind of information does the recommender need from me for the LOR?

If your recommender is willing to write the LOR himself/herself, then you should provide them with the following data:

  • Your resume (this should contain all your experience in the college/ firm). This will help him/her to remember instances easily and write accordingly.
  • The name of your target university and a link to their website/department website. It is a good idea to share with them the programme and course name as well.
  • Personal characteristics or core competencies that you would like them to talk about (related to the recommender)
  • Specific achievements you would like them to mention or highlight (as viewed by them)
Can a fellow student or colleague write a LOR for me?

This is a common misconception, but no, a fellow student or your colleague cannot write a Letter of Recommendation for you. A LOR must be professional and devoid of friendly or biased notions. Hence, universities even specify how many letters of recommendation they require from your professional and academic front.

Know Your Author
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Rohit Rajaram
Study Abroad Expert
Rohit is a results-driven individual with a strong background in Education Mentorship, Program Management and Business Development. Holding a Master's degree in Management from ESCP Business School in Paris, Rohit combines academic excellence with extensive industry experience. Throughout his career, Rohit has consistently delivered exceptional results, driving sales, increasing turnover, and achieving targets. Known for his strategic acumen, Rohit formulates and executes successful business strategies, enhancing operational quality, customer satisfaction and key bottonline drivers. As the Co-Founder of MiM-Essay, a leading Early Career Degrees application consulting company, Rohit has successfully mentored over 10,000+ students, enabling them to secure admissions in top-ranked schools worldwide with significant scholarships. Under his leadership, the company has maintained high-quality service and exceptional client satisfaction rates. With expertise in analytics, product development and business excellence, Rohit has successfully driven the success of various initiatives. Committed to constant innovation, he is expanding the company's offerings by introducing digital and technology-powered products for comprehensive education solutions.
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