Letter Of Recommendation For Graduate School



For the first time when I got the job of writing a letter of recommendation, I took it as a compliment of my hard work. It was really a “high stake” job.

The recommendation letter will leave a huge effect on a student’s application for a scholarship or admission as it will boost their proposal of getting admission in a master’s program.

And at that time I was just a 22-year-old second year Ph.D. student. The only thing that calmed my nerve was the fact that one of my departmental professors had recently shared her first experience writing a letter of recommendation.

This actually calmed my nerves. “It took forever!” she recalled. But once she got used to it, writing the letter became efficient and much easier with time.

How to write your own letter of recommendation?

If you have got a really good experience with your subject then there’s a high chance of writing a letter of recommendation for graduate programs, awards, or fellowships.

It’s quite common to get nervous about writing a letter of recommendation for the first time but don’t worry, we have gathered some basic guidelines that will help to build a strong, supportive case for your colleague or mentee.

Be Selective in knowing a person for whom you are writing the recommendation

If you are recommending someone then it’s really very much important to assess whether you know about the candidate completely such that you can write enough about the candidate in the context of the program he/she is applying for.

If you are referring someone in the letter of recommendation, it is assumed that you have worked with the applicant in an academic or professional setting.

So it’s quite clear that if you are not the direct mentor of the applicant or co-worker, you may not be his/her best bet for the letter. Similarly, if you are not able to write the best about his/her then it’s advisable to find another recommender.

On the other hand, if you are good with the applicant, know his/her skills and abilities then be confident to take the chance.

Compose a Glowing & Relevant Reference Letter

Now you’re absolutely ready to write. But, what to write? We have listed some effective points that need to be included in the letter.

They are as follows:-

1. List the Candidate’s help and participation in your projects

Before you start to write the reference letter of the candidate, you need to have some prior information about him/her. Don’t get afraid to ask him/her for the help.

You will need information like,

  • why is he/she applying for the graduate program or scholarship or for the particular job?
  • What skills do he/she possess which makes him/her different from other candidates?
  • What are some of the success of which he/she is proud of?

It is recommended to ask a copy of the resume from the candidate and then organizes your letter of recommendation.

2. Discover the candidate’s best traits

The admission committee receives hundreds and thousands of graduate program application every year. Each and every candidate who applies for it has got the same amount of education and experience.

The admission committee searches for the “X factors” thing in a candidate to distinguish them from an ocean of applications.

To find the “X factor” thing in the student you need to recall all the conversation you had with him/her.

  • Is there any unique achievement related to him/her?
  • Has he/she faced any major obstacle while dealing with her work?
  • How does he/she tackle it?
  • Whether he/she is good at leading others or rather enjoys creativity in him/her?

It is really very much important to present the best of him/her to the admission committee. It is your duty as a recommender to do that. Don’t forget that the whole selection process for that candidate depends on your recommendation.

3. Words in the Recommendation Letter mean a lot

I guess you have heard that you should not use certain words in the resume. Same goes true for the letter of recommendation. Catchy words like “enthusiastic”, “obedient”, “efficient” etc.

Do not put much value if all the applicants are described by the same. It is advisable to avoid being over explanatory in your letter.

Keep the letter simple. Be detailed. Describe your candidate giving concrete examples of his work. It will help him to increase the chances of selection for that candidate.

4. Describe the Candidate as a whole in LOR

The educational qualification in the candidate is not enough to pass the selection process by the committee. It looks upon the all-round development of the student.

While writing the letter you also need to take these things into consideration i.e.

  • Does he/she has got a sense of humor?
  • Is he/she a great listener?
  • Is he/she ever ready to serve and help others?
  • Leaving the field of study, have you seen any other important feature in him/her in any other field?

I am sure that these kinds of details will never be present in the resume of the candidate, but they will really help the committee to know that how he/she is going to contribute them outside studies.

Conquering the logistics

You are now ready with the letter of recommendation. Now it’s time for detailing.

Reviewers have got limited time to go through each application. It is advisable to be simple and short. Try to finish the letter on a single page. Use your school’s or company’s letterhead if possible and don’t forget to put your signature at the bottom along with your job status & contact information.

It’s also your decision whether you want the applicant to see their final letter. It’s the candidate’s right to see the final product but at the end of the day, it’s your decision as a recommender.

Waiving the right shows a level of trust between the applicant and the recommender, but many recommenders feel comfortable by keeping their content confidential.

At the end just check the deadlines and the guidelines for submission to make sure that your letter is a masterpiece.

Once you have submitted it, let your candidate know about it and wish him/her all the best for her luck and you are done.

Frequently Asked Questions by the people writing the letter of recommendations:


1. Do all grad school require a letter of recommendation?

No, all school do not ask for the letter of recommendation but still, it is advisable to have one. It helps in boosting your application for a graduate program. It also helps to separate you from a sea of applicants.

2. Can a Ph.D. student write a letter of recommendation?

It is really very much important to know about the educational as well as the work status of a person before asking for a recommendation from his/her side. Ph.D. is really a very good & superior degree in the field of education. Thus, a Ph.D. student can surely be a good option for the letter of recommendation.

3. How do you ask a professor for a letter of recommendation?

Many students get nervous to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation but it’s not that much hard.

Follow these steps and you will get it.

1. Start this process at least 2 -3 months early.
2. Choose a professor who knows you well.
3. Check the deadline.
4. Give your professor 4-5 months to organize the letter in the best format.
5. Review the application detail to know the sending process of the letter.
6. How to write your own recommendation letter

It’s advisable to have someone of a higher degree or work experience to write a letter of recommendation for you. But if you are left with the only option that you have to write it on your own, then follow these steps:

  1.  Make a rough outline of your letter including your strength, abilities experience and skills. Choose the most important of them and include it in your letter.
  2.  Use the correct form of words and phrase in your letter. Try to keep it as simple as you can.
  3.  It is most important to state the reason why you are writing a letter of recommendation for yourself.
  4. Above all don’t be shy of it.

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