Deciphering How Letters of Recommendation (LOR) Are Evaluated And Reviewed By Universities

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Hello Everyone,

Letters of Recommendations plays a vital role in your admission process. A single LOR can entirely change the review committee’s outlook towards the applicant, thus increasing the chances of an admit. Review Committee’s in all the Universities give lots of importance towards your LOR, since it expresses evaluation of an applicant by the professors/managers who have closely monitored and worked with you over a period of time. This post will contain lots of information as to how Review Committee looks into your LOR.

The Post is divided into three parts: – 

  • Detecting Anomalies in your LOR.
  • How to Write a Good LOR.
  • Evaluating Your LOR.

Detecting Anomalies in LOR

Professors in the review committee who look into the LOR are very smart to detect the anomalies in the LOR of an applicant. Since they too are professors who write LOR for the students and review lots of LOR every year, they are professionals who can easily identify irregularities in the LOR. Here’s how they identify the Anomalies.

  • A Generic LOR, which just praises the Applicant on various qualities without even mentioning personal experiences or facts/details to support these qualities. This is the first anomaly that the review committee looks into. If they find such a LOR, they get to a conclusion that the Recommender doesn’t know the applicant at all.
  • A more serious anomaly would be when two different applicants with the same Recommender have an identical LOR. This simply proves that the Recommender just uses a standard template. Even though it’s the fault of the Recommender, it is highly unlikely that a Professor would write a single LOR which fits for all the Students.
  • Review Committee tends to use software which helps the committee to see whether the LOR has been copied from internet sources or the Recommender who had given an LOR of a different applicant is similar to the current LOR. If they find some similarities, then review committee can take strict steps which can hamper your chances of admit.

How to Write a Good LOR?

Universities define a good LOR is a one in which the Recommender talks in detail about the actual work that the applicant has done under the Recommenders supervision and how the applicant was able to complete the work or task. A good LOR should also include other specific instances from the interactions that the Recommender had with the applicant. Such a LOR provides great insights to the Review Committee on the applicant and can play a deciding role during your admission process. Such a LOR reflects the project achievements and other salient information of the applicant which may not be evident in the rest of the application. So in short a good LOR is the one which includes specifics and details from which the Recommender comes to a conclusion about the qualities that the applicant has within him/her.

Evaluating Your LOR

Even though everyone knows that University is very much interested in contents written in the LOR, there are several other parameters that University uses to evaluate your LOR apart from the content in the LOR. Here are the parameters that University uses to evaluate your LOR.

1) Recommenders Position/Title: –

I hope you might know this, while filling your LOR details you must give your Recommender position/title. University uses this parameter to evaluate your LOR. The higher the title, the stronger your LOR becomes. Hence students must try to get an LOR from a Professor who has completed PhD as his/her LOR will be of more Weightage than a lecturer. But you must keep in mind that contents in LOR plays the major role. If you get a LOR from a Professor who has completed PhD, but the LOR contents are pretty vague, then the value of the LOR will be decreased.

2) Recommenders Relation: –

When you fill in the details of the LOR, you will be asked your relationship with the Recommender. The Relationship plays a vital role in LOR. The relation should be such that it should involve direct supervision and frequent interactions over a period of time. If you get an LOR from a Professor who has taught you many subjects and has interacted with you many times, then the value of your LOR will raise in the eyes of the Review Committee. The committee will value the LOR if the Recommender has known the applicant for a significant amount of time.

3) Number of Recommendations Written by the Recommender: –  

Universities will ask the Recommenders to fill up a form which will contain a question on how many LOR has the Recommender written. The Review Committee will be more comfortable with a Recommender who has been writing the LOR over a period of years. So if you get an LOR from a Professor who has been writing the LOR for significant amount of years then your LOR value will rise.

4) Waiving the Rights to Review the LOR: –

Waiving of Rights also plays a major role in your LOR evaluation. I have written about this in detail some days ago. Please check this link to get more information about this. Do you wish to waive your right to examine this Letter of Recommendation?

5) Recommenders Rating of an Applicant: –

While filling an Online LOR, apart from uploading the LOR, the Recommender will be asked certain questions for which he/she has to rate the applicant. If you are not aware of the Online LOR process and the questions that University asks the Recommenders, for which your Recommenders must rate you, then then please check this link. Overview On Online Letter Of Recommendation (LOR) System. The better you are rated, more your chances are for an admit to the University.

6) Strength of Recommendation: –

Finally, the Strength of the Recommendation also plays a role in your LOR evaluation. The Recommenders will be asked a question as to how they recommend the applicant. The options given will be ‘Strongly Recommend’, ‘Recommend with Reservations’ or ’do not recommend’. If your Recommender chooses the option ‘Strongly Recommend’, then your chances of an admit will rise considerably.

To Conclude: –

Evaluating your Letters of Recommendation is a complex process. Many Students fail to understand what is required in LOR  and the various parameters that University considers apart from your LOR contents. It’s highly important that an applicant must be aware of all these things before starting with the application process.

I hope this post was able to provide you with clarity of how LOR’s are evaluated. Please share this post with Students who will be applying for the MS/PhD’s in USA and other countries in the upcoming months/years.

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