Dear Mentor:

Advise me in preparing my recommendation letters.

I would like you to help me out in writing out my recommendation letters. Could you me give the basic outline for the above. I am a final year Engineering student applying for MS [Master of Science] in the USA.

My Recommendation, India

Dear My Recommendation:

Most schools (a common term for colleges and universities in the US) require applicants to submit Letters of Recommendation. Letters of Recommendation are used to assess your candidacy for admission. Prospective schools wish to assess your potential for success in the chosen field, in part, based on input from those who have been in a position to interact with you and/or observe you. This input from your "recommenders," typically three in number, becomes one input into the decision making, along with your past academic performance, performance on entrance exam(s), and so on. Typically, the application contains the Recommendation Forms, which you are expected to hand off to your "recommenders." The "recommenders" are expected to complete these forms on their own, in complete confidentiality.

So, let's walk through how you should go about getting your Letters of Recommendation (or Recommendation Forms) to maximize your chances of getting admitted to your school of choice. First is the issue of who should complete these forms for you; that is, who you should choose to write your recommendations. In a nutshell, they should be the individuals who care about your success and are liable to give you a very strong and positive recommendation. However, their recommendations should not deviate wildly from reality, such as your academic performance and your performance on entrance exams.

Your "recommenders" should have a combination of the following characteristics. They should: be at the highest level possible in their organization (college or workplace), likely to give you the most positive recommendation, likely to take the time to complete the recommendation carefully, precisely, and in detail, and/or knowledgeable about your abilities to prepare a very informative recommendation. These individuals could be your professors, supervisors at work, and/or personal contacts. The more influential and better known the "recommender," the greater the weight the recommendation carries. So select the individuals for recommendations carefully.

Recommendation Forms vary across colleges and programs. But the outline of the requested information is basically the same: How does the "recommender" rate you relative to your peers, and why does your "recommender" think that you will be successful in the chosen program. Obviously, your "recommenders," within the confines of truthful assessment, should rank you the highest possible and recommend you the strongest possible.

You should understand that high evaluation and strong recommendation in the Letters of Recommendation are not sufficient. The "recommender" must be able to explain the reasons for such assessment. One effective way to do this is to include examples of specific situations in which you excelled: brief stories about how you did something very well.

You can communicate this message to your "recommenders" when you ask them to complete your Letters of Recommendation.

Our best wishes for continued success.

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