Top 8 Skills in Recommendation Letter for Graduate School

A recommendation letter is one of the mandatory requirements when applying for graduate schools in the U.S.

Majority of U.S. universities require 3 recommendation letters and some schools require 2+.

Some schools consider letters of recommendation as reference letters. I have seen schools that require students to submit the references through an online form.

It really depends on the college you are applying for admission.

Why Recommendation Letters?

Universities use reference letters to determine their professional characters, behavior, and other skills, which will be expressed by the student in the letter by their managers or professors.

Some schools will provide a reference letter template and will ask the students to get it filled. But most schools accept recommendation letters signed in sealed envelop.

A graduate school or department admission committee will look for specific skills and traits that can convince them to give admission to candidates. It’s not a bad idea to give them an outline of skills to be included.

I have written about dos and don’ts when writing recommendation letters.

What Skills to Highlight

There are so many skills that a person can highlight in the recommendation letter while providing reference. But, it’s difficult to include many traits in a 1 to 2 page document.

Much care has to be put in to select the skills that have to be included in the LOR. You can refer to sample recommendation letters, but all those skills will not apply exactly to your particular case.

8 Skills in Recommendation Letters

  1. Social Skills
  2. Motivational Skills
  3. Communication Skills (Reading, Writing and Listening)
  4. Analytical Research and Quantitative Skill
  5. Leadership Skills
  6. Ability to overcome tough situations
  7. Willingness to go extra mile
  8. Volunteer Activities

A recommendation letter alone will not get you admission. GRE scores, statement of purpose (sample SOPs), resumé and other skills all play equal roles in getting admission.


  1. sumit agarwal on February 15, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    Need to apply for summer internship @ university of tokyo Letter of reccommendation required for earth and science .PLease send asap. Thanks.

  2. Dan on January 5, 2013 at 4:52 AM

    please wanna apply for a masters in petroleum engineering at a Canadian university. Can u please give me some tips or a sample on how a letter of recommendation and a motivational letter should look like.

  3. Shrawan on July 18, 2012 at 7:04 AM


    I am applying for masters in computer science for fall 2013. I have 2+ years of experience working in an IT company. I have asked my senior manager to write me a letter of recommendation and he has agreed. Can you kindly provide a template for how an LOR from a manager should be like for admission in MS-CS. This would be really helpful as most of the templates provided are for professors.

    Kindly help.

  4. Rashmi Joshi on July 4, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    Hi! Insightful and very helpful information! Thanks! I am applying to the US for an MS in Marketing. Could you please send me a copy of any Recommendation Letters that you may have pertaining to this field. Many thanks! 🙂

  5. sami on December 31, 2011 at 5:43 AM

    Hi,I wan to apply for Canadian universities for Masters of “Communication” or “Advertising” .
    I graduated in masters of “Graphic design”,I need your help in Recommendation Letter and Statement of intent.
    please send me some samples of Recommendation Letter and Statement of intent.

  6. vibhasbhatnagar on December 17, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    Hi this is Vibhas,

    I am applying to colleges in USA and want the LOR.

  7. Spandan madan on December 13, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    Need to apply for summer internship @ stanford university. Letter of recco required for biotechnology.PLease send asap. Thanks.

  8. MINTU SANONG on May 18, 2011 at 2:01 AM

    i want sample of recommendation letter to get admitted in undergraduate engineering in please send it my email.

    • smita gandhi on June 12, 2011 at 6:10 AM

      iwant some samples of Recommendation letters for applying for ms in usa for

      computer science

  9. shrunal tembhurne on April 7, 2011 at 11:27 PM

    hii,i am applying for filmmaking program in usa could you provide me some samples of recomondation latter related to filmmaking.thank you…

  10. linda on February 28, 2011 at 12:25 AM

    Hi , this is linda, am applying 4 grad school in the usa , I need some sample of LOR for biotechnology ( clinical laboratory science) thanks

  11. Nimalshanthi Gunarat on February 27, 2011 at 11:08 PM

    It gives me good points in writing a letter of recommendation to my students

  12. jayanth on October 22, 2010 at 10:48 AM


    dis is jayanth

    i want some samples of Recommendation letters for applying for ms in usa for pharmacy

  13. An An on July 27, 2010 at 8:27 PM

    Hi HSB, I'm An Trinh from Vietnam. I'm planning to apply for some US universities. But I have a trouble: I can't find anyone to write a LOR. Things in Vietnam are absolutely different, I'm in a class of 150 students so Prof. has no ways to know me well. Part time job, volunteer activities: I got both but my managers are not good at English and the schools I like just accept LOR through their online system.

    Can you give me some advices, please?

  14. Tamil Kadir Rajavel on November 5, 2009 at 2:08 PM

    This is what University of Minnesota has to say: "Please write a candid narrative evaluation of this applicant’s qualifications that include the following points: unique positive factors, potentially negative factors, comparative strength or record, relevant research or other scholarly experience, rigor and reputation of the undergrad college and major, rank in class, professional promise, ability to express views orally and in writing, ability to conceptualize and integrate knowledge, and any other factors or considerations that you think should be brought to the attention of the admissions committee. "

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