Nearly every graduate program requires applicants to submit letters of recommendation. Don't underestimate the importance of these letters. While your transcript, standardized test scores, and personal statement or admissions essay are vital components to your graduate school application, an excellent letter of recommendation can make up for weaknesses in any of these areas.
A well written letter of recommendation provides admissions committees with information that isn't found elsewhere in the application. A letter of recommendation is a detailed discussion, from a faculty member, of the personal qualities, accomplishments, and experiences that make you unique and perfect for the programs to which you've applied.
At least two and often three recommendation letters from former lecturers/professors who know you and from your work. If you are applying to a MBA or Management program, these programs often prefer letters from former supervisors who can speak about your professional accomplishments. These recommendations must be written in English on letterhead paper and must be signed and sealed in an envelope, or sent directly to the school. It's best to prepare your recommenders by giving them some information about the specific programs to which you are applying and your reasons for wanting to attend so that they may write a stronger letter of support.
Consider faculty members, administrators, internship/co-operative education supervisors, and employers for recommendation letters. The persons you ask to write your letters should:
know you well
know you long enough to write with authority
know your work
describe your work positively
have a high opinion of you
know where you are applying
know your educational and career goals
be able to favorably compare you with your peers
be well known
be able to write a good letter
Normally, this type of recommendation letter should be submitted along with the admission application or as outlined in the admissions procedure. In many cases, accredited universities require that letters of recommendation be sent directly to specific departments or to the admissions office. If this is the case, the applicant may be required to sign a waiver of confidentiality and relinquish his or her right to access the information contained in the letter or forms.
Keep in mind that no one person will satisfy all of these criteria. Aim for a set of letters that cover the range of your skills. Ideally, letters should cover your academic and scholastic skills, research abilities and experiences, and applied experiences (e.g., co-operative education, internships, related work experience).