Process to apply for MS in USA – Key Documents LOR
Remember we were discussing the key documents in last article and we discussed the matter that goes into SOPs. Now is the time to discuss how to get good LORs.
Letter of Recommendation (LOR)
LOR is the only place where a third person can help strengthen your application and you can use it to your advantage. Sometimes, a LOR alone from a highly regarded Professor can get you admitted even if rest of the application was average because LOR is that unbiased external perspective on your candidacy that the school can use to evaluate your profile and if it comes from a credible source, then the schools can place high weight on it.
Lets come to the basic points. All universities usually ask for 3 LORs – and you can choose who to get them from.
A good LOR is one that validates your candidacy by sounding genuine, vouching for your ability to excel at your target program and coming from someone who is credible.
Who should you get your LOR from?
So, next, you can look for someone who is better regarded (HOD vs an Associate Prof for example) and with whom you have worked closely. If you can find someone like this, then just go for them. Understand that people at higher positions are expected to connect with more number of students and therefore their evaluation can be more trustworthy as they will judge you against a broader pool. As such, their evaluating in ‘top 5% people I have interacted with’ holds more weightage than a lower ranked person’s ‘top 2% people I have worked with’.
If you are presently working, you could get one LOR from your project manager/lead depending upon whether you think he can add value to your application. The longer you have worked, better it is to ask your manager as they are more up to date on your skills and accomplishments. Sometimes, people still choose to get LOR from college Professors if they have been working less than 2 years as they dont feel comfortable disclosing their MS plans to their employer – this is fine as MS do not require professional LORs per se anyways.
In case you are applying for PhD, getting a LOR from someone in your desired area of research can matter more. You should get at least one LOR that evaluates your research skills. So, choose your recommenders accordingly.
Sometimes recommender might ask the student to draft a letter that they can then modify. This is perfectly acceptable but students should take care that the letter gives the perspective from the recommender and not feed praises for the sake of it. Try to provide only partial drafts and have them write the meat of it so that the letter has a unique voice. If you end up writing full drafts for every recommender, they could sound all same.
So, as a student, you can do the following to help your recommenders-
- Remind them of your accomplishments (try to split it between them based on relevance of the field and subjects)
- Brief them on your work and what/where you are applying to
- Provide them with written descriptions of projects that they can use in their letters directly
- Follow up politely so that the process gets done on time