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Tips on writing your own letters of rec?


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I've been told to write my own letters by my letter writers for them to adjust/personalize/sign, and this is something that feels incredibly daunting to actually do.

Any bits of advice and personal experiences would be appreciated here.

Edited by vego
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  • 3 weeks later...

So sorry to hear you've been caught in this situation. Unfortunately this does happen quite often (esp within certain fields), and below is the advice I was given by various people on this matter (and fortunately I never had to use any of it): 

(1) when someone asks you to write your own letter, it's usually 1 of 2 scenarios: EITHER the professor is from an education system (ie of another country) where writing your own letter is the norm, OR they're hinting to you that they don't know you that well / think highly of you / care about you enough to write a strong letter themselves. Think of alternative LOR writers now, if you can. If the professor is actually very eager to help you and simply isn't familiar with how LORs work, it's very helpful to meet with them face to face and explain how important it is that they put in some time to write this letter themselves - and always end the email with something like, "although having a strong letter from you would greatly help strengthen my application, you are in no way obligated, and I'm grateful for your guidance over the years as a wonderful instructor/advisor/whatever".

(2) never actually write your own "letter": it's okay to provide a list of bullet points that you'd like them to address, in particular if there are bad grades on your transcript that you'd like them to explain from a more convincing perspective. You can also send them your personal statement draft and resume, highlighting keywords/sentences that you'd like them to echo in their letter. Just don't write that letter yourself, if at all possible, for your own benefit. In fact it might be against certain academic integrity guidelines.

(3) sometimes if there's someone they know and trust (say a grad student/technician/post doc) who know you better and is more capable of writing you a strong, personalized letter, you can ask that person to write the draft and have them and the professor both co-sign the letter. However, I never did it so I don't know logistically how that could be done with each school's app system.

I know it's been two weeks and you might have already gotten somewhere with this - please let me know if I could be of more help.

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  • 11 months later...
On 10/19/2019 at 9:22 PM, DRMF said:

 

(2) never actually write your own "letter": it's okay to provide a list of bullet points that you'd like them to address, in particular if there are bad grades on your transcript that you'd like them to explain from a more convincing perspective. You can also send them your personal statement draft and resume, highlighting keywords/sentences that you'd like them to echo in their letter. Just don't write that letter yourself, if at all possible, for your own benefit. In fact it might be against certain academic integrity guidelines.

 

This is terrible advice. If your professor told you to write your own letter they trust you enough to let you include anything you want. Obviously they'll have to sign off on it at the end so you can't make stuff up but this is an excellent opportunity to have a letter that you know will be stellar, take advantage of it.

The main danger about writing your own letter comes from the letter being too evidently in your own voice but just get someone you trust to write it for you with your input.

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One of my LOR writers asked me to do this. He was my supervisor at work, so I could understand why he felt like he needed my "expertise." I basically gave him an outline with "fill in the blank" sentences. Stuff like, "I think feralgrad will thrive in your program, because..." or "feralgrad has distinguished themselves in the workplace by..."

With this method, you're giving guidance while allowing the LOR writer to give their genuine opinion.

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  • 1 year later...

Just had a professor ask me to write my own letter and email it to him. I feel suuuuper uncomfortable speaking about myself in the third person - what if I sound too praiseworthy? What if I lowball my abilities and have a weak letter submitted when it could have been stronger? It's all so uncomfortable and strange 😫

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