How to get a great MS Engineering reference letter

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Prodigy Finance - August, 01 2023

8 min read

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At Prodigy Finance, we're committed to helping international talent to achieve their education dreams. We offer international student loans to qualified individuals attending top master's programmes in the US.

For entrance into any level of higher education, you’ll need at least 1 reference letter. If you’re considering an MS Engineering degree, you're probably looking at 2 or 3 references letters. And that's per programme. If you apply to a few different schools, you’ll need to start multiplying the number of letters you need.

And you can’t write a single reference letter yourself.

Still, you have more control than you think.

What is the point of reference letters?

Some applicants don’t spend more than a minute wondering why colleges require reference letters. They’re needed and that’s all that counts.

But, a few moments of reflecting on the purpose of these recommendations might make all the difference between a decent letter and a shot at a seat or a stellar letter and early acceptance. Great reference letters can tip the scale in your favour, so you should give a lot of thought to this.

MS Engineering programmes request references because they want a glimpse into the person you are beyond grades, test scores, and work history. They want to know what other people think are your strongest traits and competence levels. (Your perception of yourself goes into your Statement of Purpose essay.)

A professional letter of recommendation for a master's programme should reflect your ability to work with others, collaborate on projects, put in the extra effort to get the job done, or even just the way your brain tackles an assignment aren't things the admissions offices will see from your test scores.

Submitting a letter of recommendation for a master's program in engineering

A master's degree reference letter (or recommendation letter) should include attributes about you that differentiate you from others.

Remember that everyone else applying to your MS Engineering programme will have similarly impeccable test scores and awesome undergrad results. What they won’t have is the glowing reference letter you have.

Who should write your reference letters?

The biggest mistake applicants make when selecting their recommenders is to ask the president of their company or the dean of their alma mater to write a reference letter.

If you’re close with those people and have spent time together on projects, by all means, ask them. But there's no point in asking someone who wouldn’t be able to pick you out of a lineup. They can't possibly add an anecdote about your time together or provide admissions teams with what they’re looking for.

So who would be the right person to write you a letter of recommendation?

The title, level, and perceived importance of a person is unimportant to admissions teams; how well a person knows you is what truly counts – even if their title is barely a notch above yours.

If you’ve recently completed your undergrad, a professor or advisor is a strong choice. But you should also consider direct supervisors at your current or previous jobs. Don't stress if your work experience isn’t exactly in your field of study. It’s something you can explain in your Statement of Purpose.

A letter of recommendation should be written by someone who is well-versed with your professional life and achievements. Never ask a family member or close friend to write you a reference letter for admission to a university; you need a recommendation from someone in your professional or academic life. For example, a letter of recommendation for MS Engineering with work experience from your employer.

Guiding the MS Engineering reference letter

You really shouldn’t ask someone to write a reference letter for you, hand them the name of the school and whatever forms they need, and walk away. You want to give them more information about yourself so their letter supplements your entire application.

After all, getting a good letter of recommendation is important because it has the potential to make or break your application.

What information should you provide with your request for a letter of recommendation?

Generally speaking, you should let your recommenders know why you’ve asked them to speak on your behalf. So first of all, you should explain the purpose of the letter of recommendation (LOR), which will help them understand which aspects of your time together to highlight in the LOR itself.

That’s just the beginning. You should also let your reference letter writers know why you want to go back to school, which courses interest you most, why you’re applying to a certain programme, and what you hope to do with your degree. Getting a good letter of recommendation is important because it has the potential to make or break your application.

Every bit of information you can provide your recommenders will assist them to write the great reference letters you truly want – without you writing it yourself. Going through a sample reference letter for master's programmes will help you get an even better idea about what the evaluators want to read.

You can even share a sample letter of recommendation with them so that they know exactly how to proceed with writing the LOR.

Letter of recommendation for Masters's program in Engineering

A letter of recommendation tells the admission committee about your personality & qualities over your qualifications. So, instead of following a strict structure or trying to replicate a sample of the reference letter for a master's program in engineering, you should try to keep it original. The focus should be on delivering a properly structured LOR to elaborate on the qualities that make you a good fit for a programme like a master's in Engineering.

Reference letter tips

  1. Ensure that your skills and abilities are highlighted. A recommendation letter for master's degree programmes will typically state that you are well-suited for the programme, and your employer/professor will vouch for your credibility. Great reference letters will endorse a candidate’s personal qualities and attributes.

  2. The reference letter for master's degree programmes cannot be written if the person doesn’t know you well. Make sure that you take some time to communicate with the person writing your academic reference letter for MS engineering, or choose someone who already knows you well.

  3. A letter of recommendation from employers is generally considered to be trustworthy. Similarly, a letter of recommendation for MS from professors will hold up under scrutiny. So, ensure that you select the right people to write your reference letters.

  4. A letter of recommendation for a master's programme in engineering adds a lot of value to your application. Make sure that your recommendation letter does not contain any false claims, as this can undermine the credibility of your entire application.

  5. If you’re looking for a recommendation letter for loan applications, you will also be required to submit a financial reference letter. The financial reference letter will be used to assure financial institutions of your credibility and will help you in getting a loan from such institutions.

Don't forget to follow up

No matter how much a person likes you or respects your work, a reference letter is a favour. It’s extra time away from their work and their lives to support your pursuit of an MS Engineering degree.

That is why you should always make sure that you provide all the necessary details, samples, and information while submitting your polite request for someone to write your letter of recommendation. Clearly and politely communicate what you expect, the process of submission, when you will need to submit your LOR, and more..

As some universities would want a reference to submit their LOR to them directly, without the intervention of the candidates, they might have an online procedure or a link through which the manager/professor can submit this letter instead.

Make sure you take time to say thank you. A token of appreciation won’t go unnoticed (though it should only arrive after the letter has been sent), and it can be as simple as a hand-written thank you card.

But, that’s not the last time you should make contact with your recommenders. Take the time to let them know if you did (or didn’t) receive an acceptance letter. Even if you choose a different school, anyone who is willing to write a letter of recommendation for a master's programme in engineering for you will be interested in your success.

You don’t want to wait too long to get the ball rolling on your reference letters either. Writing a letter of recommendation can be a lengthy task, so you should make sure that you give people enough time to write one. Keep in mind that not everyone is comfortable with formal writing and will want to take their time to do you justice.

Some commonly asked questions

What is the difference between a LOR (Letter of Recommendation) and a reference letter?
Even though both the terms are generally used interchangeably, there are some differences. The Letter of recommendation is generally used for academic purposes. While a reference letter is used for professional purposes and required when joining a new job.

However, when we’re talking about the letter of recommendation/reference letter for a master's degree, it’s the same thing.

How many letters of recommendation are required?
Generally, the number of reference letters you need to submit will be specified by the programme you are applying for. If not, you should aim to submit at least 2 or 3 letters of recommendation.

How to submit your letter of recommendation?
Whether it is a letter of recommendation from an employer for a master's degree about your work experience, or a recommendation letter from a professor, you need to make sure that it is submitted on time, along with other supporting documents for your application.

You can follow the procedure recommended by the school/university for submission of the letter of recommendation for their programme. Some schools may accept online submissions. While some schools would require you to get the LORs in sealed envelopes, with all the information and signatures, to be sent to their official address in an untampered form.

Is there a fixed format for a professional letter of recommendation for a master's?
There isn’t a fixed format or a template to be followed for the letter of recommendation. But the purpose of the letter of recommendation for engineering students or MS Engineering is to help the universities access your abilities beyond the grades and scores. So it should be written in a way that serves the purpose.

Want to know how to fund your MS Engineering degree abroad?

Prodigy Finance provides loans to international students pursuing their masters at top schools across the globe. Explore our list of schools we support to see if we can fund your programme!

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