Letter of Recommendation for Graduate School: 6 Good Tips

Graduate Recommendation Letter
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Yellow Editor's Podcast by EssayEdge
Letter of Recommendation for Graduate School: 6 Good Tips

Applying to the graduate program you need to prepare a set of documents that include recommendation letters. In fact, your application won’t be even considered if it doesn’t contain letter of recommendation for graduate school. If you are applying to the advanced academic degree you need to have academic recommendation letters from your professor. And if you are applying to the MBA program you need to have letters of recommendation from the manager of the department you are working in – hence, professional recommendations.

Start Preparing Your Recommendation Letters in Advance

Start preparing your graduate school letters of recommendation as early as possible. It is advisable to prepare them well in advance before applying to graduate school. Think of people with whom you had considerable academic or professional interaction and approach them by asking them to write your recommendation letters. Give time for the recommenders to go over past performance evaluations and remember all the stories about you to write good recommendation letters.

And make sure that your recommender will fill out the necessary form of evaluation and answer the questions that will be provided in the online application to the program you are applying to. These can differ if you are applying to different universities.

Pick The Right People Who Know the Best Stories

The first thing that you need to address is choosing the person who is going to endorse you for the grad program. The admission rules clearly state that the student is not allowed to write a recommendation letter or influence the person writing the document. That is why you have to choose carefully the person who is familiar with the work that you’ve done academically or in the workplace.

Your letter writer has to pick the most relevant anecdotes about you to give the faculty admissions the perspective on your achievements and aspirations. The admission committee is not looking at the credentials of the recommender but rather on real stories about you, information on personal experience working with you, an honest graduate school recommendation letter from a person who can address your suitability to the program.

Tip from an expert: the title or status of the recommenders are not important. While it is advisable to show recommendations from academically known professors or CEOs at the company you are working in, the best person to write your recommendation is the one who knows you best. It can be a colleague, a work associate, or a research advisor at the university with whom you have been closely interacting on a regular basis for a long period of time. And for MBA applicants it can even be a major client with whom you had a considerable professional interaction (in case you are applying in confidence).

Make Sure Your Accomplishments and Strong Qualities are Backed with Examples

The first thing to mention in the recommendation letter is how the recommender knows the student and under which circumstances you two worked together. The letter of recommendation for graduate school should provide the context and nature of the relationship with your recommender. Also, it will be valuable if your recommender will provide additional information about unusual personal or community circumstances to the admission officers.

The recommender describes succinctly your academic success, motivation, and personal ability to perform well in the program you are applying to. But to make your recommendation letter strong it is crucial to include real examples of the characteristics of the applicant mentioned. Providing stories that tell how a student possesses a genuine love for learning, his leadership skills will make you desirable for the university to accept you.

Avoid Making Common Mistakes in Your Recommendation Letter for Graduate School

  • Communicate with your recommender

When you decide on your letter writer it is a great practice to meet with them. Not communicating with the recommender about your academic goals, motivation, plans, ambitions, or career goals will result in a general and vague recommendation letter. Supplement the recommender with your updated resume or CV if needed.

  • Include real stories in the letter

Some universities ask the recommender how an applicant reacts to failures, setbacks, and difficulties. Hence, your recommendation letter needs to show you as a real person, highlight your strong points but also show that you will grow from your experience at the chosen university. The admission committee will see your personality and will decide that you are forty to be accepted to the university.

  • Edit the letter before submitting it

Make sure the recommendation letter for graduate school is easily readable and has the proper structure. Experts who work with admission documents know how to make the recommendation letters appealing to the admission committee. Recommendation letter editing will eliminate all the mistakes that can be detrimental to your application.

Always Check The Specific Requirements of The Program You Are Applying to

Different programs require different recommendation letters. You should always check the admission section on the website of the school you are applying to. For example, if you are applying to different programs make sure your recommender sends the right recommendation letters. It may be possible that your recommender needs to answer specific questions or to rate your research capability, motivation, leadership skills, and critical thinking, etc on the online application.

In general, it is only 2 recommendation letters needed. But Stanford University allows submitting up to 6 recommendation letters, but no less than 3 recommendation letters. Harvard University accepts letters of recommendation from the colleague and Berkeley states it is inappropriate and can be detrimental for your application. In the MBA application, if the student recommender is not his current supervisor (the reason might be that you are an entrepreneur or you work for the family business) he needs to explain why the letter is coming from another person.

Tip from an EssayEdge expert: it is vital to state the university or business email (for MBA applicants) of your recommender. That will serve more credibility to the document.

How to Write a Letter of Recommendation for Graduate School: General Structure

It is advised to show in the letter different information that can’t be found in the applicant’s resume or personal statement. That is why it is essential for the letter to be written by a recommender, for the admissions committee to have the description of the applicant in another person’s voice. Even if you write the letter yourself it will definitely be noticeable for the admissions committee as they will know your writing style from your application.

It is a good practice for learning how to write a letter of recommendation for graduate school to study the examples of successful recommendation letters that got the applicant to their school of choice. Generally, a great recommendation letter has to include such a structure:

  • In the first paragraph, the recommender has to establish how he knows the applicant. Show how you two have been working together academically or professionally, for how long have you known this person, and why you are able to comment on a person’s ability to study at the chosen university.
  • The body of the recommendation letter shows the skills and personality of the person by giving examples and explanations. Brainstorm the situations where an applicant showed his abilities and stood out among others in the class.
  • In the closing paragraph, the letter writer has to sum up how a person will be fitting in the chosen university. The recommender should explain how and why they feel the applicant will be a great fit for the grad program he is applying to and how he will be a good part of the university community.

Final Words

Good, positive letters of recommendation for graduate school will aid the admissions committee in evaluating your aptitude and motivation for graduate study. Focus on choosing the person who is able to comment on your qualifications for graduate study and can show your characteristics such as creativity, originality, independence, and research capability. Make sure the letter tells the distinctive and unique things that you have done as a student and attests your value by showing your personality through real stories and valuable insights for the admission committee.

What makes a good grad school letter of recommendation?
What do grad schools want to see in a letter of recommendation?
How do you write a letter of recommendation for a masters student?
What should I say in a good recommendation?
How do you start a recommendation letter?
Can an employer write a letter of recommendation for grad school?
Can a coworker write a letter of recommendation for grad school?
How long should a recommendation letter be?
Robin W.
Professional essay editor and proofreader with 10+ years of experience. Education: Cornell University. PhD in English Studies and M.F.A in Creative Writing.
Update: August 23, 2022.

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