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Letter of Reference and Letter of Recommendation

Letter of Reference and Letter of Recommendation by Muhammad Adil Ilyas

Sometimes, a letter of recommendation might be referred to as a reference letter. Although a reference letter could be more general and a recommendation letter, on the other hand, could be more personal and detailed because the person writing it is actually recommending you for the position you’re applying for instead of just presenting a reference. Now I’m not jumping into the details to differentiate the two because most of the times, schools, colleges and universities use the terms “letter of recommendation” and “reference letter” interchangeably. I’m rather writing down some tips that could come in handy when you’re requesting and are writing a draft of a letter.

it’s a good practice to request your professors/supervisors well in time to write you a letter of recommendation because they might be busy or on holiday so it won’t be possible for them to process your request on a very short notice. I’d request a letter four to six weeks before the application deadline and this would also give me some time to leave any reminders if needed.

Preferably request in person

It’s always better to request a letter in person; drop an email and request an appointment or simply talk to the professor after a lecture. The approach in a way that works best for that professor. Explain politely why you need the letter and when is the deadline. Moreover, inform your professors if you want to receive the letter by email or you need a paper version. In case the universities you’re applying to require letters directly from your professors, tell them how many letters they’ll be sending. Most of the times, they’ll have to upload the letter to the online portal or send by email. If you already have this information, convey it. Additionally, it’s also suggested to give your professor a copy of your CV. Your professors might ask for a copy of your transcript as well so it’s better to have it when you’re visiting them.


Writing your own letter

So, you decided on your letters and have approached your professor to request a letter of recommendation. Sometimes, the professor might actually ask you to write a draft and send it to her/him. At this point, you might think like, wait for what! I’ll write a draft for my LOR that means I’ll write my own letter. But, don’t be surprised. Professors might be busy with their work and perhaps many students approach them for a letter of recommendation so they prefer to receive a draft and then make any alternations if needed. This draft also helps them get an idea about the kind of letter you need. Now that you’ve to write your own letter, avail this opportunity to write a splendid one. It’s, however, advised to bear in mind the ethics of writing your own letter and don’t make it too good to be true.

Writing the introductory paragraph

Before you start writing, you should understand that you’re writing from the first-person perspective of your professor and you have to refer to yourself as a third person. Mention how your professor knows you; it could be because of a course, project or thesis. Then you could write a few lines about the course content for that particular course or the scope of that project/thesis work. The introductory paragraph should not be very long.

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