POINTS TO REMEMBER WHILE ASKING FOR A RECOMMENDATION LETTER

With the crucial job of selecting the right recommenders being done, one can focus on the more important areas of going ahead with the process of asking them for writing and being ready with the Letters. This will involve a number of stages actually from what we put here theoretically on paper. For a better execution of the entire process, we can suggest some basic points which the candidate and the recommenders can take care, so that the task becomes easier and efficient without much of repetition, which would cause further delay.

The main areas where one has to take care are the Proposal or Approach, Time, Format, Documentation, Organization or Arrangement and lastly the Follow-up. We will discuss each area from both the candidates’ and recommenders’ view.

PROPOSAL / APPROACH:

 The Proposal is the method of approaching the recommender for asking him /her to write the LOR for the candidate.

For the Candidate - The applicant should arrange for a personal meeting with the recommender and talk on the aspects and exact areas where he wants the author to focus. Just sending the form without a personal talk on this is not what one should follow. He/she can make a phone call and explain if the person lives far off. Emphasis should be on the need for a LOR and the candidate’s reasons for applying to the particular course.

This face to face meeting reinforces in the candidate, whether the recommender can write a Strong captivating letter to him or not. If he has any second thoughts on this, one should withdraw his request from that particular person. A LOR is a written testament of the candidate, which mirrors his essential qualities, which has to come across the same conviction, for the admissions committee to take notice. For this the author has to pen it in the similar way, making it a memorable one.

Confirm on the points you want the recommender to cover and take reassurance that the author holds the same view of your own self-appraisal. The mutually agreed upon items can be put, and a discussion of the flaws of the candidate can also be made, in order to give the candidate, a projected perspective of how the recommender views him and what all he will be writing.

For the Recommender - This method of personal meeting also gives the author, the opportunity to clarify on some aspects of the evaluation form, the timelines of the different schools the candidate is applying to, the specific subject he/she will cover in each letter etc.

TIME:

The usual practice for the correct timing for asking to write a LOR is six weeks before submitting an application. The candidate who is completing his semesters, when applying for the next courses in the international schools (be it MBA or Masters or PhD.), should start asking the recommenders by the middle of the semesters as by the end the professors/recommenders would already be flooded by LORs from different candidates, and he may not be able to give time and the much needed focus on the said candidate’s profile.

For the candidate - It is important to educate the recommenders about the deadlines of the different schools, he is applying to, so that the recommender is aware of when he is supposed to send the LORs. To ask the recommender to send all the letters at once rather than sending one by one.

DOCUMENTATION:

These are the different papers/paperwork required for the efficient carrying out of the planned LOR writing.

For the Candidate - These documents should be sent to the recommender so that he can easily understand and follow the instructions and then write the LOR. The candidate should include a Cover letter with the Schools Names, Addresses and deadlines for the different LORS the candidate needs. The evaluation forms (of the LORs), of the different schools which the recommender needs to fill, the applicants’ resume, the applicant’s short and long term career and personal goals -the personal statement, Stamped Envelopes which are addressed to the respective schools for each LOR and lastly the most important one is the list of points, which the candidate thinks as a fit for the school/course he is applying to. For different recommenders different customized “fit points” and substantial evidences of the same. For example -the certificate of participation in a quiz, which proves that the applicant is a well-rounded individual, should be sent to the recommender. These evidences should be submitted long with the LOR. By stating the correct information in all the above documents in a clear and concise manner, the applicant can make the recommenders give their best shot. The resume should always include the applicant's academic and career history, his honors, awards, certifications and distinctions, his community works, publications and research work if any, his personal passions, skills and interests.

For the Recommender - In this segment, the author should take care that the points he is stating about the candidate is synonymous with the relevant information in the documents and should be substantiated by enough evidences and proofs. Mere stating of the applicant’s attributes without one or two proofs, doesn’t go on to add value to the LOR.

FORMAT:

The accepted format for the LOR is professionally typed and printed on the applied school's letterheads. The candidate should ask the recommenders to type on professional letterhead with laser-jet or ink-jet printers.

ORGANIZATION:

The candidate is required to make a list of the deadlines of the schools in a chronological manner, so that the recommenders also follow it and finish accordingly, on time. The forms and other documents mentioned here can be sequentially arranged and clipped and enveloped and sent to the recommenders with the due dates on the top. Separate envelopes for separate recommenders.

FOLLOW UP:

Usually when the recommenders are furnished with the necessary information and documents to write the LORs, the candidate can contact them after two weeks, inquiring about whether they have sent them to the schools or not. The applicant should recheck with the school about receiving of his LOR, if they haven’t received, asking the recommender to send another copy of the LOR is a good option. Thereafter, the applicants should send a thank you letter to the recommender for giving his valuable time and support for writing the LOR for him. He should be continuously in touch with him, also updating him about the final admissions decisions.

The above areas should be kept in mind, while asking for the recommendation letters. Two important areas where the candidate needs to take utmost care are the confidentiality of the letter and not to attempt to write the letter on behalf of the author, even if the recommender tells him. The confidential nature of the LOR is the reason for the admissions committee for the purpose of writing a LOR. If as a candidate you waive the rights and go ahead with opening it and seeing it, the authenticity and quality lose and it becomes less valuable to the Adcom. Asking the recommender to send him another copy, however can be done, which is not going to violate this clause at all. Secondly, one should remember the admissions committee is all seasoned faculty and professionals who have been reviewing applications for a long time, so it won’t take them long to catch a LOR which has been self-written, and consequently rejected. The admissions officers want to accept applicants who have integrity and ethics, who are willing to get their work reviewed and appraised by a third party.

Thus, choosing the ‘right recommenders’ for yourself is the key to the lock.