Letter of Recommendation – A Complete Guide (2021)

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Letter of Recommendation is required by most universities and plays a very important role in your admission to graduate programs.

A Letter of Recommendation (LOR) is a document written by a teacher, professor to evaluate the professional and academic qualification of a student to recommend for a particular position. It contains work and particular skills evaluation if issued by your employer e.g. your manager or supervisor in a company. Usually, students need this when they are applying for graduate studies as it is one of the most important documents for the admission process.

Other names that are interchangeably used for a letter of recommendation are recommendation letter, reference letter or letter of reference.

Importance of letter of recommendation

When applying to study abroad in countries like Germany, most of the universities ask to provide LOR(s). German universities value it highly as it’s an evaluation done by someone who knows you in a relatively close capacity. Therefore, you must take its important seriously.

In this guide, we are going to cover:

  1. General requirement
  2. Before getting started
  3. Documents required by a referee
  4. What’s included in the letter of recommendation?
  5. How to get a strong letter of recommendation
  6. Tips

General Requirements

Before getting started with your Letter of Recommendation you must confirm all the following things by checking the study program requirement section provided on the university website.

  • The numbers of required letters of recommendation vary from university to university. Generally, 1-3 LORs is/are required.
  • University may ask to submit a letter of recommendation from your teachers/professor at the former university or manager/supervisor from your company where you worked.
  • Universities like TU9 or others prefer to receive LOR(s) from your teacher/professor/project or thesis supervisor
  • Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS) also known as Fachhochschule (FH) in German or Higher Education Institutions are also known as Hochschule (HS) in Germany prefer LOR(s) from your manager/supervisor at the former or current company.
  • You may be asked to provide letters of recommendation from both professor and manager at the company
  • The letter of recommendation must be sealed, stamped and signed by the recommender (former teacher or manager)
  • In some cases, universities provide a specific format for LOR that the recommender must fill and no other type of recommendation letter is accepted.
  • If the university did not specify the format of LOR your recommender can write a general LOR format but the length of LOR should not be more than a page.
  • Moreover, some universities ask you to upload your LOR(s) after getting it filled by your referee otherwise you have to send it in a sealed envelope(s) along with other admission documents via courier as required by the university.
  • If the university has asked to provide your referee’s email and then they will email your referee to provide a recommendation letter on your behalf. In such a case you must confirm with your referee if they would be willing to follow through with such a procedure.

Documents Required by a Recommender

There are no specific documents required by your referee to write you a LOR. However, we advise students to provide any of the following to your recommender/referee (teacher).

  • Your bachelor’s transcript of record (Marksheet)
  • CV/resume
  • A letter of recommendation draft (in that case you must how to write one)
  • A letter/email that shows your genuine interest in the study program
  • If the university you are applying to has provided a specific format
  • A short summary of your bachelor’s thesis

Some of the above will help them remember your performance during study or work.

Who to Ask to Get a Strong Letter of Recommendation?

  • Those who want to see you succeed with your career would be willing to provide you with a positive letter of recommendation. You should ask your previous professor or employer who knows you closely and believes in you. It could be someone with whom you have worked or studied in recent times like a bachelor’s thesis/project supervisor.
  • Prefer a referee that has a respectable position at that institution or company such as a college dean or head of a department only if you have worked with them and they have a positive image of you.
  • Its an ideal scenario if the recommender taught you similar course modules or you worked with them in a similar topic that you are interested to puruse in your further studies. Recommendation letter from such individual will boost your chances of admission.
  • After selecting your referee, ask them nicely if they are happy to be your referee. If they are willing to write to a LOR then you should provide their authorized email to the university.
  • If you are required to upload the document yourself then you should ask your referee for an appointment, so you can get your LOR filled and signed by them.
  • Ask your recommender nicely, to make sure if they would write a positive recommendation letter. It is very important.

Important Things to Mention in Letter of Recommendation

The following are the questions that the admission committee expects your LOR to answer.

  • How long does the recommender know the student?
  • What is the relationship between the recommender and the student?
  • Why do the recommenders think that you are the right person for this course?
  • How has the student matured and excelled over time?
  • More points will be added soon

Note that these are some general questions writers should try to answer. However, writers may add more points describing your positivity.

Other Important Tips

Some other important tips for a perfect LOR are as follows.

  • Ask your referee if they need any additional information for assistance in writing your LOR.
  • Put some effort into improving your recommendation by explaining to your referee why you are interested in applying for a particular course and at a particular university.
  • Make sure that LOR praises you while keeping a professional vibe and tone.
  • After receiving your LOR, make sure it is stamped, sealed, and signed by your referee or by the responsible department. It might be that you are not even allowed to see what the recommender has written about you.
  • Make sure the letter does not exaggerate in describing your personality.
  • Try mentioning some stats like “you were among the top 5 students in class” or any related stats.
  • More tips coming soon

If you need any assistance regarding your LOR, you can always reach us on our website.

Frequently Asked Questions

Would the university contact my recommender?

It depends, the university might if there are any doubts. In such a case the communication with your recommender is usually very short as there are a lot of applicants each year. Make sure that the content of your letter of recommendation is well aligned with other applications documents.

How long does it take to receive a letter of recommender from my recommender?

It depends on the schedule of your teacher but it could take usually from 1 to 3 weeks. Make sure you clarify everything the recommender needs to know otherwise the process can take longer.

How should I contact my recommender?

You can write them an email or meet them in person if possible explaining why do you need the letter of recommendation.

When should I ask my recommender(s) for an LOR?

The best is when you already know which programs you want to apply for, so you can clearly communicate the requirements of the letter of recommendation letter from the university. If you have already got a recommendation letter but the requirements do not meet, you would need to ask again. It also good that you can communicate this earlier with your recommender that you would need a letter of recommendation from them at approximately this time. In case they say no

Should I get LORs from multiple recommenders?

Some master programs ask for more than one LOR. This means you need to ask different individual recommenders.

Can I get more than one letters of recommendation from each individual recommender?

Yes, you should according to the number of study programs you would apply for admission.

More FAQs will be coming soon as long as we get them.

Quick Links

Learn about other documents requirements:

Admission requirements for Germany in this guide >>

How to write a motivational letter/ Statement of purpose – The ultimate Guide 2021 >>

How to write a CV (tabular) for graduate admission >>

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