” Letter of Recommendation “, ” Reference Letter “, ” Letter of Endorsement “, ” Letter of Good Standing ” or simply ” Reference ” – a letter of recommendation for studying abroad is known under various names.
To the application for a full study abroad, such as a bachelor – or master’s program, a letter of recommendation belongs almost always do so. In contrast, many universities do not send a letter of recommendation for a semester abroad. Since applying for a “ Study Abroad ” program is uncomplicated, many students choose to spend a semester abroad as a free mover.
However, there are also universities abroad that require semester students to send a letter of recommendation. A letter of recommendation is also required in other contexts, for example for the ERASMUS application or for other scholarships.
The requirements for a letter of recommendation for studying abroad are as varied as the names. They differ not only from country to country, but also from university to university.
Variants of a letter of recommendation for studying abroad
In contrast to a letter of motivation that applicants write independently, a letter of recommendation for studying abroad is issued by a reference person. Depending on whether it is a report for first-year students or enrolled students, teachers, lecturers, internship supervisors or employers can be considered.
Letters of recommendation or reference
In general, a distinction must be made between letters of recommendation and letters of reference. The former is tailored to a specific university and a specific course of study. It is an individualized letter of recommendation. The latter is general and can be used for multiple applications.
For example, a letter of reference is required for a bachelor’s degree in the UK. Applications for full-time UK undergraduate programs are usually made through UCAS, the UK’s centralized university place. Students apply to several universities at the same time and submit a central application. For this reason, the reference letter should not be addressed to a specific addressee and should be kept as general as possible.
Standardized or free letters of recommendation
Some universities abroad work with ready-made forms. On these standardized evaluation sheets, referees must record their overall impression of the applicant and, for example, express their strengths and weaknesses. In some cases, an assessment of the applicant’s individual competencies is also required, such as the ability to think analytically or spoken and written English.
At some universities it is also possible to submit a separate letter in the form of a cover letter on letterhead – either instead of the form or in addition to it. There, the reviewers can comment on the applicant’s qualifications.
Still other universities do not have any requirements with regard to the letter of recommendation for studying abroad. Thus, the reference giver can freely formulate the letter.
Formal requirements for the letter of recommendation
There are no generally valid, formal criteria for a letter of recommendation. In the event that there are specific requirements, these differ from university to university.
A letter of recommendation for studying abroad is usually one or two pages long and written on official letterhead in English. The letterhead should contain the contact details of the referrer and the logo of the home university. The signature of the exhibitor and the original stamp of the university, school or company are also part of a letter of recommendation.
Professors in particular are usually familiar with writing letters of recommendation and know what is important. For reviewers from a non-university environment such as teachers or employers, it can be helpful to explain the function and structure of a letter of recommendation again.
The letter of recommendation usually consists of the following sections:
- Introduction: Here the reference provider introduces itself briefly. He explains how he relates to the applicant and why he can assess his performance.
- Main part: Assessment of the applicant’s professional and personal suitability.
- Final part: After the reviewer has referred to the applicant’s competencies and strengths, he makes the actual recommendation.
There is also no uniformity with regard to the delivery methods for a letter of recommendation. At some universities abroad, there is the option of uploading the letter of recommendation for studying abroad directly in the online form. At other institutions, the letter will be sent to the university together with the remaining application documents. Recruitment agencies take on this task free of charge for the students.
Still other universities request a sealed letter of recommendation. In addition, there are universities at which applicants can only state the name of the reference provider when applying. The university abroad contacts the reviewer itself and the letter is sent directly to the university by him.
If the reference provider independently sends the report to the foreign university, advisory institutions are not able to offer a free inspection of the application documents.