How important are Recommendation Letters (LORs)?

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Rahul Singha
Study Abroad Expert
Updated on Mar 29, 2023 23:21 IST

How important are Recommendation Letters (LORs)?

We have often heard how important admission essays and/or the statement of purpose (SOP) are for international applications. However, we do not often hear about an equally important (if not more) document, called the Letter of Recommendation (LOR). This is in spite of the fact that while not all universities abroad ask for an SOP or an admission essay, nearly everyone requires a LOR or a letter of recommendation. The recommenders also vary depending on the course you have applied for. However, the question is exactly how important is a LOR.

In this article, we will try and put some perspective into this document for you. We all know that a LOR is essentially a document that talks about the applicant’s skills and qualities. Also, a letter of recommendation is often requested for both your job as well as your admissions. Unfortunately, the document is almost non-existent in India, leaving students absolutely confused. Moreover, most study abroad consultants also, do not emphasize the importance of LORs enough. We would request you to think otherwise.

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Reasons why a LOR is as important as your essay or statement of purpose:

It serves as a validation of your resume for both academic and/or professional experiences

Often, universities refer to your Letters of Recommendation as a validation of the achievements you have mentioned in your resume. They also serve as proof positive of your work in an organization or your tenure at a college, as LORs are usually requested on official letterheads. (Please refer to Letter of Recommendation Format from Faculty and Letter of Recommendation Format from a Supervisor). For instance, there is a project that you have worked on which received a rather good grade during your under-graduation. While the same might be mentioned in brilliant words in both your resume as well as your statement of purpose, it is a simple judgement that if it was that well-received, your professor would surely mention the same in his/her letter of recommendation. This is also one of the factors that help you answer the all-important question of how to choose the right recommender.

Read: Learn to write LORs with the help of videos by university experts

It gives a third-person opinion of your candidature

A letter of recommendation also talks about your personality and other relevant attributes essential for a student. Mostly, universities require an Academic LOR which is a validation of your abilities as a student. It also goes on to substantiate qualities like discipline and dedication towards academics and the way you respond or interact in class. Essentially, what you include in your LOR, offers the perspective of a professor to another professor, which adds value to your candidature as a prospective student.

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It adds valuable insights into your leadership and team abilities

Suggesting that you are a good leader is one thing but in truth, only a good recommendation letter can point out your abilities as a leader. As is often said, you are as good a leader as others think you are! This point is often clearly charted out in a Professional LOR. Most universities, for their MBA applications, require a Professional LOR from your immediate reporting manager/ supervisor. These letters offer a perspective of your leadership, and more importantly, your ability to work in teams, and also with other teams. This is considered a big requirement, especially for MBA and/or research-based courses, abroad; hence, it adds extra importance to your LORs. No wonder then that top universities and Business Schools often put about 8% weightage on the LORs submitted by the applicants.

The document also mentions weaknesses or areas of improvement

Most professional LORs, which are form-based or in questionnaire format (with specific questions that must be answered by the recommenders), include a pertinent question. This is – the applicant’s shortcomings/ areas of improvement. Needless to say, an SOP or an Admission Essay focuses on your positives and steers clear of the negatives in your application. For instance, it would focus on the subjects you have topped in but not necessarily talk about where you faltered. A recommender is usually advised to provide this information, to give an unbiased judgement about your candidature, making it all the more important for the applicant to be extra careful in choosing his/her recommender. Not only that, a student should understand what should be included in his/her LOR while asking a teacher/ supervisor to write an all-important letter of recommendation.

Hence, while submitting your LORs, please be certain that these would also be considered in all honesty when deciding your admission. So, though you should give time and effort to your essays, be equally involved in your LORs, as they can make all the difference.

Read More: LOR Format - Letter of Recommendation (LOR) Format from Faculty

About the Author
Rahul Singha
Study Abroad Expert

With over 8 years of experience in overseas education, Rahul Singha has been previously associated with prominent education houses. He is also responsible for keeping a sharp eye on education policies of major study... Read Full Bio


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