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LOR from professor, but written by me!


Clay Made
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If you've read my last post, I was having huge trouble trying to obtain the requisite number of recommendations.

I have two locked but needed a third. From my last position, I tried to get a recommendation but the guy I was working under has since left and I have no contact details for him. The number I had, he did not respond to! :(

Anyway, I thought having all LOR from professors maybe an issue however after being assured by some other posters that they are doing the same, I began to approach more people.

My professor, who was my thesis advisor, seems iffy at best. I sent him my material and he was very nonchalant about reviewing and then writing the letter. Hence, leaving me to think that it may be some random, generic letter, which would suck.

So I asked another professor to cover my tracks, and she responded within 24 hours. However, she said she is very busy but would be happy to review a letter I write, and for her to edit in any way that may be necessary.

Yay, right? Has anyone ever done this? What were the results? I have no idea how to go about this, and I think I would just write a letter that would be too good, if you follow me.

Anyone with reassuring thoughts?

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It happens occasionally. Some professors use the student's version of the letter as a basis for their letters but I'm sure others only give the letter a glance before signing it unchanged. I never had anything like this happen to me but I imagine I would prefer to err on the side of being too positive. If the professor doesn't endorse this opinion of you she can always reword whatever she disagrees with. Better that than not being confident enough and missing out on an opportunity for a stronger letter, in case she never really reads the letter carefully. Of course I'm not arguing for far-fetched exaggerations but I am advocating for the use of as many superlatives and details as is reasonable.

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I have done it a few times. Sometimes they edit it, sometimes they send it as-is. I usually structure it similar to other letters of references I have read about myself that were written by someone else (helpful if you have access to some). It's a positive because you can mention all the things that are great about you, that they might not necessarily know as well as you do.

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I will note that this is actually quite common especially at larger universities. Like the others have noted, wording is key especially since some recs will only glance at it and then sign it. Also, a lot of programs are starting to catch on to this tendency and voiding recs even seen by applicants, so write a strong recommendation but not one that is too far fetched. This should ultimately be a huge plus for you.

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I had one Professor want to do this for my NSF recs. I ended up telling him I didn't feel comfortable writing my own letter. He said that it was fine; and he just wanted to make sure it was strong enough. He ended up writing a letter and then having my advisor look over it, which worked out pretty well.

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  • 8 months later...

Wow. I had no idea this kind of thing occurred. I don't think there is anything wrong with it at all, though, as long as the prof looks it over and if that's what the prof wants to do (have you write it and he/she approves it). I think I have thought before about this. Like, that I would offer to do it if they are too busy. I write letters of recommendation for my students often (I'm a community college instructor currently and also have ex-students from when I was a T.A. at the university where I did my M.A.). I essentially ask them, "What do you want me to say?" I mean, they are good students anyway, so it's not as if I'm lying about them. But since I ask so explicitly what they want me to emphasize, I'm sure professors feel the same way about their undergrad and grad students...

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  • 2 weeks later...

I will note that this is actually quite common especially at larger universities. Like the others have noted, wording is key especially since some recs will only glance at it and then sign it. Also, a lot of programs are starting to catch on to this tendency and voiding recs even seen by applicants, so write a strong recommendation but not one that is too far fetched. This should ultimately be a huge plus for you.

I would be careful about saying that a university would void recs even seen by an applicant. FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act) says very explicitly that students have the right to see letters of recommendation and that it cannot be held against them. That's why applications have the waiver. To not comply with FERPA (as I've been told) is a huge no-no in the education world.

That being said, I agree that writing your own letter can be harder sometimes than having someone right one for you.

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