Recommendation Letter is More Valuable than SOP?

Graduate school admission in the U.S. typically include some mandatory requirements like the statement of purpose (SOP) and 3 letters of recommendation (LOR). But which one is more important for school admission officials, an SOP or an LOR?


According to Stanford University Dean of Admissions Derrick Bolton:

If you asked me ‘could I make a decision on an application without essays?’ I would say ‘absolutely’, but ‘could I make a decision without recommendations?’ ‘No way.’ To me the recommendations are more important than the essays, but the essays get more attention.

  • Derrick Bolton, ‘Faculty Spotlight: Interview with Derrick Bolton,’ March 13, 2006, The Stanford Business Reporter.

LOR is worthless

An LOR has high importance compared to SOP. But students applying for India have 100% control on the LOR.

Only a few selective professors and managers will give confidential LORs. Majority of the students applying at graduate schools in the U.S. will write LORs by themselves and get signature from their professor or lecturers.

Many universities in America might not be aware of such method. In such cases, an LOR is just worthless. Do you agree?

FYI: All elements of required admission documents are given equal importance during the admission process. Even a single negative comment from a recommendation letter can derail your chances of getting admission in the USA.


  1. Vaibhavi Shetye on November 5, 2010 at 8:07 AM

    Dear HSB,

    I have been following your blog since the day I have decided to pursue my PhD in US. It is indeed helpful in guiding me through my admission process.

    I am a Bachelor of Pharmacy ( 2002 pass out). I have a total experience of 7.8 years in Pharmaceutical R&D ( since past 5.4 years working with a leading Pharmaceutical MNC). I am in process of collecting letter of recommendation.

    I will be getting them from my current and ex-employer. The only concern is how am I supposed to get it from my College, as 8 years is a quite a big time gap. How much mandatory is to get a recommendation letter from the college institute with my kind of work experience? I am not in touch with my college professors.

    Please advice.



  2. Richa on March 1, 2010 at 11:09 AM

    It is not all that easy to get an LOR…since I passed out of college in 2009…I have to go to col literally evryday 2-3 times for d past 2n a half weeks,n still gt just 2 of them.On top of that my college has refused to give me copies of the LOR and also refused to attest &sign the xeroxed lors.So i m screwed.Just dont know what to do.

  3. Ananth on November 15, 2009 at 8:27 AM


    For a student applying for MS or PhD, is getting

    a LOR from a teacher who only has a BE degree of

    any worth?

  4. Recommendation Lette on September 10, 2009 at 1:55 AM

    They are well aware of what an LOR is. The don't care of Indian LOR thats it.

  5. easwaran on September 6, 2009 at 7:56 PM


    greetings, How the Indian Students could have control over LOR,

    does it mean

    1)student request professors for LOR and the professor gives LOR the way student wants it?

    2)professor of Indian colleges are at the mercy of students?

    3)It is a matter of quality and prestige for a professor to give LOR to a counterpart at different university and i am sure they will give true statement of the students.

    Honestly i feel only a deserving and studious student only will elect to pursue his higher education

    and that will help him and the country of origin.

    if he gets a good education and that might land at good job or career in USA.

    he might send back home some money that way India will benefit in forex inflow

    if he gets a noble prize or some extra ordinary achievement

    we in India can feel proud of that.

    i am of the opinion that mostly professors take their own decision and give their honest opinion about the caliber of the student.

    after all if his student gets better opportunity to pursue higher education, professor will be elated certainly

    this is my view.




    • HSB on September 7, 2009 at 10:19 AM

      1)student request professors for LOR and the professor gives LOR the way student wants it?
      Nope… studetn request the professors for LOR and students they provide the LOR and they just sign it.

      2)professor of Indian colleges are at the mercy of students?
      Professors from IIT and top Universities know how to write LOR, but most other engineering schools lecturers have no clue about writing an LOR.

      • easwaran on September 10, 2009 at 5:01 AM


        i have forwarded Letter of Recommendation that gets Graduate School Admission, curtsy HSB article to HOD Mechanical of sons engineering college. and also requested him to visit this site for more addition to this i have requested him to put this blog address in the college news board, so that the aspiring students who are not aware of such wonderful service are available here , with net savvy students is on the rise i am sure many will benefit.

        Let the whole world be well informed




        • HSB on September 10, 2009 at 5:14 AM

          Thats wonderful. Thanks for your help.

          • easwaran on September 10, 2009 at 5:38 AM

            "The great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do"

            Walter Bagehot

            i prefer to abide in the words of this great scholor



  6. Nipun on September 5, 2009 at 3:57 AM

    Oh yes they do know it very well. The America universities are very well aware of Indian students having 100 % control over their LORs. They are not fools as they have been dealing with Indian people from almost 30 years now. In my opinion, they mostly ignore Indian LORs unless they are from an established professor especially at IIT.

    • natraj on December 25, 2009 at 4:35 AM

      But nipun remember one thing. Don't think that only students from IIT are doing MS. There are many students who are getting admitted to US universities and doing well than these IIT students. Even the professors or scientists who are getting noble prizes or making big achievements, all are not IIT students. good will is not the property of that IIT suckers.Person should have talent and caliber who can create wonders.

      • Ramesh Devadig on January 6, 2010 at 1:01 AM

        i completely agree with u Natraj

        • Arun on December 6, 2011 at 10:27 AM

          not all IITians are suckers,… dont be jealous of them dude 😛

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