The letter of recommendation is what the admission committee or human resource department use to assess your character or subjectively inquire about your academic standing. The letter of recommendation should help bring your personal statement, resume and other part of your application to life. It is a reflection of how others see you. It is usually written by someone who has been in close contact with you either as a mentor, teacher, supervisor, co-worker, project manager et cetera. The common mistake is to choose someone who is high profile but knows little about you over someone who is not as highly rated and knows a lot about you. There are roughly three types though more exists;

  • The academic L.O.R
  • The personal or character L.O.R
  • The employment L.O.R


For the sake of the scope of this book, I will dwell more on the academic and character LOR

Academic L.O.R

Like the name suggests, it is meant to be an attestation to your academic strengths and hence should be written by someone who has being in the position of a lecturer to you. It highlights your academic characteristic with examples. It is a way for the committee to verify your claim of diligence, persistence or intelligence. This type of LOR is usually considered as an academic case for admission.

It should contain

  • Your relative academic standing or percentile.
  • How many students you are basing your comparison on.
  • The basis you are making the comparison, official class rank/personal.

The information below is are examples of details the University of Cambridge expects ACADEMIC referees to provide.

  • The applicant’s academic results to date
  • The applicant’s academic fitness and general suitability to undertake the proposed course of research or study, in relation to the qualification sought
  • A justification of any difference between the applicant’s academic ranking and your estimate of their suitability for the course
  • If the applicant’s native language is not English, their level of fluency and proficiency in English, particularly in the context of their academic work
  • If the applicant is intending to study part-time, their ability to manage different responsibilities simultaneously
  • Any other information which you think is relevant to the application (e.g. research experience, ability to work independently, key strengths/weaknesses)

Character L.O.R

This is usually written by any other person provided they talk about your non-academic attributes such as time management skills, attention to details, team work et cetera.


  • It focuses on the applicant
  • It describes the applicant’s record
  • It evaluates the accomplishment of the applicant
  • It describes personal characteristics that predict potential growth