Letter of Recommendation (LOR) - Types of LOR and LOR Formats


Letter of Recommendation (LOR)

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What is a Letter of Recommendation (LOR)?

Letters of recommendation are the letters that people who have been associated with you professionally write to tip the scales in your favour with the admission committee. Therefore, the question that arises is whether a third-party record of your activities has bearing on your application. The answer is dull-sounding yes. The amount of importance attached to the letters of recommendation differs from university to university. Normally smaller universities hold these letters in much higher regard than universities with, say, a large number of applications. For smaller universities, a letter of recommendation serves to understand you as a person. Whether you are afraid of overstating or understating your achievements, these letters show the admission committee the candidate in a different light.


Letters of recommendation offer depth to your application. Whatever has been stated on your application, in your CV is something that you have to say about yourself. A Letter of Recommendation on the other hand, offers a fairly unbiased perception about you. As mentioned earlier, larger universities do not really add importance to the letter of recommendation. This however does not go to mean that letters are not read. Universities in general are looking to add diversity and experience to the classroom. They want someone who can be engaged in the course they are enrolled in. They want someone who knows they want to be where they are, instead of just about any run-of-the-mill application. For the candidates who add value outside of the classroom to themselves, recommendation letter for University offers an unbiased perspective.

At times when the colleges are flooded with data about students qualifying in terms of scores and applications, universities following holistic admission processes look to have a more complete picture of the candidate. A glowing recommendation from a professor you know goes a long way in ensuring that your application stands out from amidst the scores of people applying to the university.

Types of LOR For students

Letter of Recommendation for Bachelors

Letter of Recommendation for Masters

Letter of Recommendation for Ph.D.

Universities are a completely new environment.

They are communities within themselves. Universities want to know that you have the capability to sustain in such an environment. Because, like it or not, university teaches one a lot including, but not limited to friendships made that last a lifetime, holistic approach to life and society, depth of courses, test of one’s interest in the said course, a better understanding of oneself. Universities need to know you have the intellectual curiosity and the knack to learn. This is where the substance of your recommendation comes in handy.


There are two types of Letter of Recommendation:



Academic Letter of Recommendation:

Academic letter of recommendation for college are helpful to the students who want to study abroad in MS or any kind of masters. Even for an undergraduate program, Recommendation letter for students are sometimes required. If you are applying for a bachelor’s degree, teachers and college professors will write letter of recommendation for students. If you are applying for a master degree, the LOR will come from the professors. An academic recommendation letter will contain your accomplishments as a school or college student in your respected field of study.

Professional Letter of Recommendation:

Mostly MBA programs abroad request for recommendation letter, a Professional LOR is recommendation letter from supervisor, preferably his/her immediate supervisor will draft recommendation letter for employee. The professional LOR will differ from the academic one, as this will not focus on candidate’s academic achievements but his abilities to work as a team member in an organisation, or team leading qualities he/she possesses.


Some of the questions candidates normally have are how to begin a letter of recommendation? What does a standard letter of recommendation layout? To answer the question, one has to remember that an LOR is not a copy of SOP.

Initially in an LOR, the reference (the one who is writing the letter for you) should introduce him or herself. Along with his designation in the institute and institute name. Then he can further proceed to explain further about his relationship with candidate, and can add the duration he has been in contact with the candidate.

The next step is more about the candidate himself. If academic letter is there, the teacher / professor will explain the subjects and projects they have worked together, along with qualities of the student. If the letter is professional, the employer will talk about the nature of the work, soft skills that candidate possess, and the experience on the job.


As mentioned before, these LORs are of higher importance to smaller colleges. Evaluating every LOR has a monetary cost to the university. To handle the huge influx of data from all the applicants, most universities are understaffed or do not have enough budget to deal with the same. Therefore, for larger colleges, these LORs are usually given only a cursory glance. However, a negative recommendation goes a long way in tipping the scales of the admission process against your favour. However, most recommenders are chosen by the applicants themselves. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that one would go to a professor one knew would not give a good recommendation of, or did not hold the said applicant in high regard. Therefore, universities generally expect positive recommendations only.


These Letters also serve another purpose. They help the admissions committee in understanding where your interests lie etc. Therefore, it is important to think clearly about what should be in a letter of recommendation, and what to put in a letter of recommendation.  LORs also help in highlighting skills that were not apparent from your transcripts or your CV. Most colleges are not just interested in what merits you have acquired but how best you have made use of the opportunities available to you. A good recommendation from a professor you know well goes a long way in answering these questions. They also help in answering questions about whether you’ve shown particular interest in a topic, whether you’ve worked on something that highlighted your interest or whether you’re building up for another interest altogether but have shown zeal in connecting the dots.

Since most LORs are positive, they merit no more than a cursory glance from the officers as mentioned above. To have your letter say that you were industrious or meritorious or made full use of the advantages presented to you is something that you find in any run-of-the-mill LOR. What the admission officers are really looking for is depth and personal touch in your LOR. They need to know you as a complete package that includes your academic, extracurricular and social life. While part of the process is to present yourself as best as you can, this becomes hard when one has confidence issues, or when one is in doubt as to what to present that amounts to significant importance on the resume to make it stand out. It is in this case, that a good LOR comes in handy.

An LOR has the potential to pass along a significant amount of information to the admission officers that helps in judging you.


As mentioned above, an LOR is best made personal to give the admission officer an understanding of the person behind the application. It helps them put a face to it and judge the compatibility of the student in the university setting. In that regard, asking for a letter of recommendation should be addressed to the teachers and professors who you were close with in school/college years.

LORs generally come in a variety of ways. Some are borderline enthusiastic that make the committee wonder where you failed to stand out. Some are excessively generic to even merit a read-through. Though these do not hurt your application explicitly, they present a wasted opportunity. Because while having very few drawbacks of being drab, an LOR present humongous opportunities of tipping the scales in your favour. That is why it is best for you to sit down to discuss what goes on an LOR.

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