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5 Tips for a winning Letter of Recommendation

A well-written Letter of Recommendation (LOR) highlights your potential as a candidate and is vital to impressing admission officials. A good LOR offers a comprehensive insight into you as an individual and your various capabilities and inclinations in your subject area as well as competence beyond academics. Here are five tips to keep in mind when it comes to LORs:

1. Identify the number LORs you need

Generally, institutions ask for one to three LORs, but it varies across programs. For example, MBA programs tend to ask for two whereas some Masters degrees might want you to produce one from an academic source and another from your field of work. Check the course website and plan accordingly. 

2. Finding the perfect Recommender

Who your recommender should be depends on the program requirements or as mentioned in the program guidelines. Following are the recommendation sources for various program categories:

  • For academic pursuits: if you are applying for undergraduate or a postgraduate degree that does not require work experience, your course instructors or academic mentors can be your reference. Approach someone who has coached you for a longer duration, is well aware of your progress over the course, have interacted closely on thesis/project work and with whom you share a level of comfort and understanding. 
  • For professional courses: Professional programs like MBA require work experience based LORs. In this case, it is better to get your recommendation letter from your direct supervisor with whom you have worked on projects, and who knows your style of functioning. However, you can approach your CEO or someone in a higher position if you have had a one-to-one collaboration with the person on high impact assignments.               


Beware: It is wonderful to be recommended by a distinguished alumnus or a renowned persona. However, unless you have interacted with the person for academic or professional reasons for a certain length of time, such a recommendation will not strike the right note with the admission officials.

Key takeaway: Your LOR must be written by someone who knows you well as a person and as an aspiring candidate for the program. The ideal recommenders are those who are from the same or related field of study so as to ascertain your fit for the course. It would also be appreciated by the admission committee as your candidature is validated by a subject expert.

3. What to write in an LOR? 

With so much riding on the LOR, it goes without saying that while the content of the letter is of prime importance. Additionally, how it is presented is equally critical for it to appear authentic. 

  • The LOR should focus on your capabilities, academic achievements, fields of interests, leadership traits, emotional quotient, community service etc. 
  • It must be in simple and reader friendly language using clear and lucid expressions. Don’t use only adjectives or mere descriptions; instead corroborate your accomplishments by citing solid examples that the person as your mentor/teacher has observed.
  • Provide relevant details pertaining to your achievements in the relevant domain, eg, internships, exchange programs, research work, participation and presentation in seminars etc.
  • It must throw light on your soft skills such as communication skills, interpersonal skills, adaptability, team work, analytical abilities, enterprising outlook and contribution to the institution.
  • It is important that the tone does not reflect exaggeration or a biased perception but grounded on fair judgment and assessment based on observation.    


Beware: Your recommender must be well-versed with the program you are applying for to judge your eligibility and efficiency for it. 

Key takeaway: The LOR must convey an authentic observation and perception of how you’re the ‘right fit’ for the program you’re applying for.

4. Help your Recommender

You may feel that your mentor knows you well enough to provide their feedback in the LOR, however, on your part it is necessary to furnish them with talking points so that they can tailor their response to the need of the program. Once you understand and glean information about the course details, draft a template/organiser to share with your recommender for your LOR. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how readily they’ll welcome your initiative. Here are the essential points that you must provide: 

  • How long do they know you and in what context are they familiar with you?
  • How do they evaluate your skills, achievements, strengths and personality? They must provide examples for every point on which they are assessing you.
  • They must co-relate your key accomplishments with the program requirements to underscore your eligibility for it. 
  • A brief explaining why they think you are a perfect fit for the program.


Beware:  Give your recommenders ample time. Start working with recommenders 6-8 weeks before the submission deadline, so you have enough time to put together preparation materials, meet with them to request the recommendation and share these materials, and to respond to any questions that they may have.

Key takeaway: Remember, besides all criteria, the main attention for selecting you as a prospective student will depend on how fit you are for the program: your recommender will need your help in drafting the perfect LOR.

5. Uploading the LOR

Your LOR must be submitted by your recommender.  So make sure you explain the submission process to them. Show them how to upload the recommendation, and ensure that they submit it directly. Many schools have back-end technology which gives them insight into where the LOR is being uploaded from, so they can tell if it’s being uploaded from the same IP address as your application.


Remember, your LOR must provide a holistic view of your profile as well as uphold you as a deserving candidate for the program so that the college committee gets an insight into your capabilities and efficiency. At Open Canvas, we offer LOR services that can help you craft a winning recommendation from your recommender. Get started, today!


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