When a student decides the career path, many questions come his/her way. It is always advisable to find the correct answers to all your questions before you move ahead. Hence, in a series of four blogs, you would find all the solutions to your frequently asked questions about letters of recommendations.

In part 1 of the blog series, we answered questions like what is a LoR, which programs need them and why, what is the ideal quantity et al. You could revisit that part here. In the part 2 of the series, online LoRs were introduced and answered. You could revisit that part here. Let’s get started with more answers.

 What is the online recommendation?

We already explained the second type of online recommendation in the previous blog – wherein your referee sends his/her recommendation through email directly to the ID mentioned on admissions page. The first type, the more common one, is the one where an email is sent to the referee. The email has a link, with access credentials. The referee might be asked to create a temporary account on that page. This is helpful for referees in colleges who will get multiple reference requests, and therefore can access all their recommendations through a single account. Once the referee logs in, there are some formal questions, including, but not limited to

  1. Since how long have you known the applicant and in what capacity?
  2. Please comment on the strengths of the applicant OR What are the most outstanding qualities of the applicant?
  3. Please comment on the weaknesses of the applicant OR What are the areas of improvement of the applicant?
  4. Please state the peer group against which you have compared the applicant.

This is followed by a rating matrix, wherein qualities such as research potential, ability to take an initiative, teamwork, original thought process, academic performance, and professional attitude are to be rated. Your referee must rate you as Outstanding (Top 1%), Excellent (Top 5%), Very Good (Top 20%), Good (Top 40%),  Fair (Top 50%), Poor (Bottom 30%), Very Poor (Bottom 10%) or Cannot Comment (Not Applicable or Had no chance to observe). These percentages might vary slightly from program to program.

Finally, there is a blank box asking the referee to provide additional information, if any, to support the recommendation. This box may have a word limit/character limit just like the questions above.

Alternatively, the referee can upload the scanned copy (explained above) through the upload button if he/she does not want to type.

At the end, there may be a drop box with the following options:

I recommend the applicant strongly.

I recommend the applicant.

I recommend the applicant with reservations.

I do not recommend the applicant.

Once finished, the referee must submit the recommendation. The referee is allowed to save a PDF of the recommendation for future reference. When the recommendation is submitted, a confirmation email is sent to the applicant and the referee, and corresponding status updated in the online application.

Can I ask my referee to forward the recommendation email to me?

No. You should not do that. Recommendations are confidential. You should not violate the sanctity of the process.

My referee cannot write a recommendation in English. What should I do?

Contact the university/program directly. They will tell you what to do. Most of the times, the solution is to choose a referee who can communicate in English and avoid those who cannot communicate in English.

So do I need professors or famous people to write my recommendations?

No. That is the most widespread myth about LoRs. The following things matter in a recommendation:

  1. How well, or how closely, has the referee observed your work or academic performance? This could mean, choose the professor/lecturer who has taught you the most subjects in college. Do not choose recommendations from your school if you are applying for a graduate level program.
  2. The examples given to support the recommendation. Vague recommendations that do not highlight particular abilities with examples gain less traction.
  3. The readiness of the referee to comply with the recommendation system. If the referee refuses to submit online recommendation but the program mandates an online recommendation, either avoid the referee or avoid the program.

The following things do not matter in the recommendation as much as the above.

  1. How famous is your referee, or how high is the designation. A well described recommendation from an assistant professor will help your application much more than a vague recommendation from the head of department.
  2. How long is the recommendation. Concise recommendations are totally fine.

Who should submit the recommendation?

Academic referees – people who have taught you.

Professional referees – people who have observed your work in a professional setting, either internship, industry project, or full time work. In an exceptional case, this could be the person who supervised your work in a nonprofit assignment (working with an NGO).

Can I get recommendation from a personal reference?

No. There is no scope of personal recommendations for applications to graduate programs. Undergraduate programs at times require character-based recommendations.

How do I select who should write the recommendation?

Ideally, 2 academic referees plus 1 professional referee. Sending 3 academic references is absolutely fine. Sending all 3 professional references is acceptable, but you will have to either inform the program in advance, or put an extra explanation (there is space given for such explanations in the online application) on why you could not find any academic referee.

That’s it for part three. If you have more doubts, you could either wait for the next and the last part or comment below. We will get back to you as soon as we can.

You can check out our video on the same

Written by:

Ajit Singh
Head – International Products
Team Endeavor
For more about him, you can click here.

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