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    Submitting Letter of Recommendation to Universities Abroad

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    Sugandhi Sood

    Study Abroad Expert


    Letters of Recommendations aka LORs are important documents sought from the academic or professional supervisors to gauge the skill set and potential of any applicant that determines whether he is worthy of having admission in advance study course or not.

    The institutions consider this document as one of the most authentic document as it is written by someone who interacted with the applicant for a significant period of time in the same capacity in which the foreign institution’s faculty will be engaging if the applicant becomes a student there.

    In view of this, they want to make sure that the LORs are received by them without any malpractices or fraud.

    The various ways of accepting LORs are :

    1. Electronic LORs
    2. Electronically sent LORs (by Email)
    3. Paper LORs
    4. Paper Reference Form LORs

    Electronic LORs: Many institutions especially for the graduate programs use an electronic reference system known as e-ref in short. In this reference system, the applications are submitted online and the applicant is required to provide an email address for each referee. This email address needs to be the official email address of the referee and Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, MSN, or other free e-mail accounts are not accepted.

    The institution then emails a unique link to each referee provided by the applicant and the system is designed in such a way that each referee securely logs into the site and is able to submit the LOR as an attachment on the portal.

    This is the most popular and secure system to receive LORs used by most of the top-ranked universities in the world currently.

    Electronically sent LORs (by Email): Some institutions want the referees to send the LORs directly at the institution's email id provided by the institution itself. The referee has to send the email from his official email address and send the LOR as an attachment. The difference from the E-ref system is that here the referee is not provided with a unique link and a portal to receive the letters is not involved.

    Paper LORs: The universities may allow the referees to send the physical paper letters to the official address of the university. These can be sent by courier or registered or speed post. The condition is that the letter of reference needs to written on the official letterhead of the organization and must be signed by the referee under the seal of the institution.

    The condition is generally that the envelope will be sealed under the supervision and signatures of the referee. The sealed envelope is sealed in such a secure way that no one should be able to temper with the seal.

    Paper reference form LORs: These forms are normally popular for academic references where the universities like to get some specific questions answered by the referees. As they want to collect some information regarding the applicant from a professor or counselor who has interacted with the applicant in academic settings for a considerable time, they like the referees to fill a specially designed form and request the form to be sent in a sealed and endorsed envelope ensuring the security of the document.

    In this system universities are able to gather data on every applicant on similar parameters before adjudging their eligibility for the program.

    Letter of Recommendation Submission Guidelines at Top Universities

    University Name LOR Submission Guidelines
    University of Oxford Electronic LORs with a unique link sent to each referee
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology Electronic LORs with a unique link sent to each referee to be submitted through MIT portal only.
    Stanford University Uploaded through the application system OR sent on given Email Id
    University of Cambridge Electronic LORs with a unique link sent to each referee
    Harvard University Uploaded through the application portal system
    California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Electronic LORs with a unique link sent to each referee
    ETH Zurich Electronic LORs with a unique link sent to each referee
    University of Chicago Uploaded through the application system OR sent by the referee directly to the university
    University College London Electronic LORs with a unique link sent to each referee
    Imperial College, London Uploaded through the application system OR sent on given Email Id

    Step-by-step Guidelines to Submit Your Letter of Recommendation

    • The applicant has to decide on the referees at the time of preparing the admission application.
    • Make sure how many LORs are mandatory to submit.
    • Select your referees carefully keeping in mind not only your equation with them but also the fact that they have to spend a substantial amount of time preparing, filling and/or uploading the LOR. In other words, the referees should be ready to comply with the rules laid down by the opted institution to send the letters of reference or recommendations.
    • The letters should be written with the asked contact information and if sent by email, only an official email id is to be used.
    • Where electronic LOR is to be filled online, there the required time to be spent by the referee will increase.
    • Once all this is clear, you have to mention the official email addresses of your referees in your application form at the place provided for the same.
    • After a few days a unique link will be received by the referee and it is important that he/she should keep a tab on the received emails.
    • Once the link is received, the instructions should be followed after opening the link.

    It is advisable not to try and inform the university that your referees have sent the LORs. You may ask them if they have received the required references as in the case on non-receipt you may request the referee to check his/her emails.

    Though universities prefer and know this very well that professors and counselors having good acquaintances with the students write positive and required LORs for them but in the online LORs they prefer that the applicant should not be by the side of the referee as the unbiased opinion of the academic or professional supervisor is needed.

    Wherever the paper LOR is to be sent by post, utmost care of the security of the document should be ensured to avoid disqualification of the LOR.