I am going to apply for grad school starting this December. I have heard that an LOR is pretty essential in the process. I have a few professors I can approach. But my question is: how do you present an LOR? By that I mean, should it be sealed in an envelope, giving the impression that I have not peeped into it, before submitting it for grad school?

What if my professor mails me an LOR instead of writing it? Do I take a printout and do the above?

Also is there a particular format I should be aware of? And what else should be there on the letter, apart form the content itself, college stamp/seals or anything of the sought?

Are there any other formalities that I should be concerned about?

  • Generally speaking, the recommender will send the letter directly to the admissions office. Jun 18 '15 at 0:08

The rules vary greatly by country and program. You should follow the rules as specified by each individual program.

For instance, in the US, the applicant should never see a letter of recommendation at any stage of the admissions process. Nowadays, this is circumvented by having the letter-writer submit the reference directly, with the applicant only "supervising" the process to see if a letter has been submitted. In the rare cases where everything is to be submitted together, it is usually required that the letter writer sign across the seal of the envelope, to ensure no tampering has occurred.

As for the format, it should again follow local customs—for example, in the US, being submitted on official letterhead is sufficient; a mailed letter in Germany would be considered suspect without a stamp mark. (An emailed letter would be an exception to this, but would still be expected to have an electronic or digital signature of some sort.)

  • 1
    I'm not sure that your never is true in the US. There are controls in place to make sure that the recommender wrote the letter and knew of its submission (i.e. controls on integrity), but there are, as far as I know, no rules requiring that the applicant not know about the contents of the letter. I certainly saw the contents of at least some of my letters years ago.
    – Bill Barth
    Jun 16 '15 at 14:06
  • I concur with @BillBarth: although the custom is to not show the letter, in some cases an advisor with more relaxed personal boundaries will choose to show a student how well they've been praised. Maybe a particularly vengeful advisor might choose to show a student how meanly they have been spited too, but that I've never heard of personally.
    – jakebeal
    Jun 16 '15 at 21:05

As far as I know, each school you apply to will have their own system for letters of recommendation. Most will have you put the recommenders' contact info into a form, and the school will contact the recommender to request the letter. It is always possible that some may have different methods (particularly outside the US which I something I'm not acquainted with).

For now, just start thinking about who you want to recommend you, and perhaps even begin a conversation with them to understand what they need from you to write a stellar recommendation. The administrative stuff will be more clear once the applications are made available to you in the fall.

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