Structure of the content of a letter of recommendation for studying abroad
The requirements for a letter of recommendation for studying abroad or for a semester abroad may differ depending on the university. However, there are various aspects that often come up in a letter of recommendation.
Classification of the reviewer:
- What position does the reference provider hold and for which subjects is he responsible?
- What relationship are experts and candidates? How do you know each other and how long have you had something to do with each other?
Academic assessment of the applicant / professional suitability:
- What services did the applicant provide (participation in seminars, term papers, presentations, exams, etc.)? Here it can also be discussed how the student gets involved outside the university, for example through participation in student groups. Reference can also be made to the applicant’s social commitment, provided it is relevant to the chosen course of study.
- How does the expert assess the applicant’s work and performance, also in comparison to other pupils or students?
- Where does the reference provider see the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses?
- Why the reference encoder holds the applicants for (English language) Study / Semester at the finish university abroad suitable? In a reference letter, the reviewer does not refer to a specific university, but to the country of study, for example.
Applicant’s personality / personal suitability:
- What qualities – for example, reliability, motivation or a high level of commitment – characterize the applicant?
- How does the applicant behave towards his fellow human beings?
This catalog of topics does not necessarily have to be worked through, especially since other aspects can be important depending on the subject. For example, it often makes sense to emphasize the applicant’s ability to work in a team in a letter of recommendation for a science course. This plays an important role especially in group work in the laboratory.
In addition, deviations in the content structure of the letter of recommendation can be determined depending on the type of study. A letter of recommendation for a semester abroad in particular is often quite casual. In many cases, the referrer attests that the applicant has a good command of English and gives a brief performance assessment.
In any case, it is advisable to get an idea of the content-related aspects of the university or department at an early stage.
Academic and work experience letters of recommendation in the UK
Some UK universities require two academic letters of recommendation for a Masters degree. For others, it is possible to submit a practical professional letter instead of a second academic one. This is useful, for example, for applicants who have been working for a long time.
A practical professional recommendation letter is also about relating the applicant’s professional qualifications to the desired course of study. The question of how reviewers and applicants know each other must also be addressed. In addition, reference should be made to the professional field of the applicant.
It is important that it is a relevant, practical professional reference letter. An internship certificate is only suitable to a limited extent, as the focus is mostly on the job suitability of the applicant and less on his or her study-relevant knowledge and experience. However, if the internship certificate is technically relevant and the qualifications and achievements of the applicant emerge from it, it can also serve as a practical professional recommendation letter.
Number of letters of recommendation
The number of letters of recommendation required for studying abroad varies and depends on the country of study and the type of study. In some cases, an expert opinion from a specialist from the home university is sufficient.
In some countries, such as the UK or the US, it is common for students to submit two independent letters of recommendation – especially when applying for a master’s degree. This has to do with the fact that in many English-speaking countries there is no actual job reference. The letter of recommendation therefore serves as a substitute and accordingly has a higher priority than in Germany.