Letter of Recommendation for PhD Students with Sample Format


Students who aspire to do a PhD need to have a letter of recommendation along with other documents needed for admission. Students usually need to have at least two letters of recommendation so that the selecting committee have a better idea of the practical skill set of the applicant which cannot be judged just with transcripts and resume.

What is a letter of recommendation for PhD students?

Letter of recommendation (LOR) for PhD students is a very important document which the student must possess in order to apply for his/her PhD. As this is a perspective of a human about the applicant, it can give a clear idea to the admission committee to better under statement of purpose, resume and transcripts.


Letter of Recommendation can act as a final decision factor in case two or more applicants have similar credentials.

Who is best to write a recommendation letter for PhD students?

A person who writes a letter of recommendation for PhD students is known as a referee. A referee should be a person related to academics, this person can be a teacher, guide, supervisor or even someone whom the applicant has worked with.

A referee should have known the applicant professionally for at least one year. Also the person should not only know the academic details of the applicant but also know the overall personality.

Friends and relatives cannot provide the letter of recommendation for PhD students because of some of the reasons as mentioned below:

  • Friends and relatives may not have complete knowledge of the academic capabilities of the student
  • They would not have worked with the student professionally, so they can’t give judgement about the student’s professional behaviour.
  • Friends and relatives may not be objective and completely honest about applicant’s qualities

Format of Letter of recommendation for PhD Students

The letter of recommendation is mainly one or two pages which are properly divided among 5-6 paragraphs. First paragraph consists of a basic introduction of the referee who is writing the letter of recommendation for the applicant and how the referee is associated with the student.

The next 3 to 4 paragraphs contain information about all academic and personal qualities of the student along with suitable examples for each of the qualities.

The letter ends with a concluding paragraph in which a summary of the points in the letter are written and why he/she is recommending the student for PhD.

Different parts of the letter of recommendation for PhD students in mentioned in the table given below:

Parts/Elements in the letter
Association of the person with the applicant
Knowledge of the Subject
Leadership qualities
Social and Communication skills
Team Skills
Creativity and patience
Referee Information
Sample of Recommendation Letter for PhD Students

Can a relative write a letter of recommendation if he/she has worked with the applicant professionally?

In case a friend or relative has worked with the applicant professionally, then he/she can write a letter of recommendation, but it may not contain as much weightage as a letter written by a teacher, supervisor or mentor.

Can we get admission for PhD without a letter of recommendation?

Yes, a student can get admission for a PhD course without a letter of recommendation but for that the student must possess exceptional qualities and achievements. Having a letter of recommendation for PhD students is always beneficial.

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