Demystifying Reference Letters

Reference letters and Statement of Purpose (SOP) are the two most important part of the Application processes. Even if you have the best result in the world, if these two documents are not well written, your chances may be slim.

Hand in pile of letters

I explained SOP in my previous article, kindly see it : 10 Frequently Asked Questions on Statement of Purpose or Motivation Statement

Today, we will demystify reference letters. You will be required to upload 2-3 reference letters written by people who know about your academic life. The link can also be sent to them to upload with a specific deadline.

Now, the issue is, how do you get the best reference from a lecturer you are not even familiar with? Some of us even don't tell our referees before using their emails.

Here are some tips:

1. Most of us don't get in touch with our lecturers after school until we need their assistance. In advance countries, this is never an issue because they know you are also busy.

First, find a way to get their contact (email or phone number). Just greet them normally and ask about their well being. Send them a Happy new month text. Fix a time to always get in contact.

Find out what they like and maybe provide it, depending on the type of person you are dealing with. It will be easy to ask them for recommendations after you must have an established a good relationship. As Africans, we value things like this. Don't let us pretend😄.

2. Once the relationship is established, let them know about your intentions to apply after sometimes. Carefully explain your post-graduate plans and ask them for advice. This way, you are carrying them along.

3. Many lecturers have default reference letters on their system. They just change the name and some few things, then upload on your behalf.

However, if you carefully involve them, your reference letter should be different as he/she will take more time because of the established relationship.

4. Some may ask you to send a draft of what you want, then send it to them to proof-read. This is an opportunity for you to express your writing skills without exaggeration.

Read also : How to obtain Effective Letters of Recommendation.

There are many sample recommendations online. But make sure you write what is unique to your abilities. The truth is that you can package anything if you are very good at writing. Ask people to help you craft a nice recommendation if you can't, then send it to your referees.

5. Some may give you one sample reference letter and tell you to use it whenever you like, by changing the content.

While this may not be the appropriate way, never abuse the opportunity to 'esteem yourself beyond measures'.

Do not send any recommendation without the consent of your referees. This is because the school may ask your referees some specific details in your reference letters later. Even if you will send, let your referees know the content.

6. I know that some of you may have issues getting many recommendations from referees. So, you think you can just use his/her signature to write any reference letter anytime. This is 'dangelous'😄. Never try it. The system of the school you are applying to may detect this.

7. You can sense the quality of your reference letters by the quality of your relationship with your referees. Amend every broken relationship with your referees.

I know you have legitimate reasons, but you need these reference letters. Think about it.

Read also : How to Guide your Recommenders on writing a letter of recommendation.