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"jande48 is the effing man. Not even joking, this is kid is dope. Accept him effing ASAP. kaythxbai."

Use that, verbatim.

In all seriousness, it's an interesting situation, but probably not that uncommon. Instead of focusing on the specifics of the research, focus instead on your qualities that you think (and he would likely talk about if he actually wrote) that make you a good researcher. Don't be worried if there are some similarities; remember, letter writers often ask to see the SOPs and CVs, and some of mine asked me if there were any qualities I wanted them to stress as far as tailoring the letter to the programs in question.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

This is beyond flaky, it's lazy and unprofessional for your primary advisor to ask you to write your own letter. Indeed, it might even weaken your application if you're a strong student since you can't possibly write for yourself the type of personalized, glowing recommendation that can be a difference-maker in admissions. Ugh.

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I agree with cyberwulf. If you really have to do this, make sure you include anecdotes. Remember that reference letters rarely have word limits.

Then maybe ask a trusted advisor/prof. to read it to make sure it sounds like something a prof would write.

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  • 1 month later...

What a weird situation. I totally agree with cyberwulf--that is beyond flaky. On the other hand, maybe this prof really thinks he's doing you a favor. Either way I can see why it would be super uncomfortable to have to write your own rec. The suggestion of having a friend do it might be your best bet. Perhaps you could find someone who is familiar with you and sit down with them to detail the things you want emphasized. Of course once they're done you should go over it and make adjustments, but it will probably be easier than doing the whole thing by yourself. 
Good luck, and let us know how this turns out!

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I've been asked to write my own letters before (thankfully, not this time around), and I agree that it really puts you in a difficult position.  Not only is it hard to write the kind of effective letter that someone else would write, but many applications will force you to sign/agree that you haven't seen the letter or had any part in writing it (as others have said, it's not that uncommon -- but it's still lousy!).  I would strongly consider asking a different recommender, if you have that luxury.  This one is doing you a number of disservices. :unsure:

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I was in a similar situation, except with an employer. I wasn't planning on asking her at all, but one program required a professional reference. I guess it makes sense because it is a professional program.

 

I outlined what I wanted to include (only things my boss would actually know and say!) then asked my graduate student sister to write it. My dad owns a large company and writes letters all the time, so I asked him to look over it as well.

 

Then I brought it to my boss, sat down with her, and made SURE she agreed with everything that was said. She made a few changes and it worked out well for both of us. It was a really uncomfortable situation, and I wished she would have written it herself. However, I did get a good letter out of it AND I could make sure it got to the schools on time.

 

I have a feeling academic references might be harder to draft, however. Employers have all different writing styles and abilities, so who's to say what a boss really sounds like. Just make sure it sounds professional and not too gushy.

Edited by spacezeppelin
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I know someone who had a similar situation, and used it to write about things that are not in his SOP, which saved more space in his SOP and allowed him to focus  more on his research experience/interests . 

 

I recommend that you look up some sample letters of recommendations ( some of them are available online, on universities' websites) and try to understand what does the adcomm look for in a LOR. 

 

You might find this helpful: http://www.press.umich.edu/pdf/9780472031887-appendixg.pdf

Edited by khaled
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  • 3 weeks later...

Do not assume its laziness or unprofessional on the part of the professor.

 

Often times programs, scholarships, grants, etc etc have specific guidelines and things they request in their letters of reference.  I have been in the situation before where I asked a professor to write me a LOR and he told me, of course, however, write it first then send me a copy and I will add my own words.

 

He did this not because of some ill reason, but because the scholarship asked to discuss very specific points on my research career.  So instead of telling the professor "Here are the things I would like you to focus on, or here is what information is particularly relevant",  I described the events myself, sent him the letter, he agreed or disagreed with what I wrote, edited, and the process went along much smoother for this.

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I provided all of my letter writers with my CV, copies of my SOPs, two writing samples, a list of programs with the POIs and explanations for why I wanted to work with these people, transcripts, and copies of my teaching evaluations. An applicant can always provide information to letter writers without personally writing the letter.

During my UG and MA I've solicited letters from about 10 separate individuals for applications/scholarships/grants. None have ever asked me to write my own LOR. All of the people that I've spoken with find this concept unacceptable. Often times it is precisely because the recommender doesn't want to spend the time or simply doesn't know the applicant. If it is a matter of knowing the research of the applicant, this information - most of which ought to be included in the prospectus/proposal - can be given to them. Providing such materials is MUCH different from personally writing the letter.

 

Nevertheless, it places the applicant in a terrible position to comment on their own performance. I would hate to try to do this for myself, so I'm glad that no one has requested it of me. Upon soliciting the LOR I always mention that I will provide a folder containing the aforementioned materials (or any others of relevance). If I were still asked to write it myself I would give strong consideration to finding a different letter writer. But, if I had no one else, or if they were a potentially strong LOR, I would certainly write my own letter. But I wouldn't be thrilled about it.

If I'm ever a prof, I hope I don't ever ask a student to write their own letter. I feel it defeats the purpose.

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