Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )
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Neatrends
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Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby Neatrends » Fri Sep 09, 2011 8:27 pm

So I contacted one of my professors to ask for a recommendation letter. He wrote back saying that he would like me to write the letter for him, and then he will change/add to it, that way I could get across everything I want to highlight.

The advice I have read online so far is that if my own voice comes across in the letter (and it probably will), this will hurt me, and so it is probably better to decline the offer to write it.

I have yet to ask for my other letter, and I only have one back up recommender that I could turn to.

Help! What should I do?

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Moomoo2u
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby Moomoo2u » Fri Sep 09, 2011 8:29 pm

reply and tell him that you would prefer his honest opinion/the school won't accept it if it's written from you. It sounds like he just wants to know what he should write in it.

I would just give him a list of things you want to highlight (maybe show him your essays/work etc) and tell him to speak to those things or any experiences you had together that would emphasize certain abilities. That way he knows what to write about and you make sure he's emphasizing the things you want emphasized.

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MrPapagiorgio
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby MrPapagiorgio » Fri Sep 09, 2011 8:32 pm

Moomoo2u wrote:reply and tell him that you would prefer his honest opinion/the school won't accept it if it's written from you. It sounds like he just wants to know what he should write in it.

I would just give him a list of things you want to highlight (maybe show him your essays/work etc) and tell him to speak to those things or any experiences you had together that would emphasize certain abilities. That way he knows what to write about and you make sure he's emphasizing the things you want emphasized.

Word

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Neatrends
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby Neatrends » Fri Sep 09, 2011 8:39 pm

Ok so when he first responded he requested "you write the letter or a template," so I emailed him explaining what I'm trying to get across with my application (that i'm an enthusiastic learner, well rounded, involved, etc).

I also included a survey about what class I took with him, grade I earned, assignments I did, meaningful interactions with the professor that I recalled. I also attached a copy of the final paper for his class as well as my resume.

Lastly, I included a bulleted list of about 8 things I would want the writer of the letter to emphasize.

I figured this would be good enough to count as a general template for the letter (info about how I know him, work/study experience, things to emphasize, extra details about me).

However, he quickly wrote back asking if something had changed because I had agreed to write the letter (I thought I had agreed to send a template).

I'm afraid if I tell him it wont be ok to write it myself, he'll say to look elswhere for a recommender, and then I'll be stuck scrambling for someone else. Should I just suck it up and write my own letter, or am I seriously affecting my chances by doing so?

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No13baby
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby No13baby » Fri Sep 09, 2011 9:03 pm

It's a really bad idea to write your own letter. Explain to your prof that you're not allowed to write one; if he still won't do it, find somebody else.

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fathergoose
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby fathergoose » Fri Sep 09, 2011 9:11 pm

I wish there was some way to find out what percentage of law school LORs are "drafted" by the individual who is being recommended. I'd wager it's pretty high, easily 1 in 3

bbalcrzy23
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby bbalcrzy23 » Fri Sep 09, 2011 9:40 pm

You know the answer. Do not write your own letter. Tell your prof you are not allowed to, if he still insists, find someone else.

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Neatrends
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby Neatrends » Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:04 pm

fathergoose wrote:I wish there was some way to find out what percentage of law school LORs are "drafted" by the individual who is being recommended. I'd wager it's pretty high, easily 1 in 3


If you think 1 in 3 rec letters really are drafted by the individual being recommended, are you also implying that its no big deal?

It's a crapshoot as to whether I could find another solid recommender (I went to a very large state school where I had to go out of my way to get to know a couple of my professors personally).

Yes, ideally I would under no circumstances draft by own letter. But given the circumstances, would you take a chance with finding another person (knowing it will be difficult and you may end up with a subpar/general letter) or would you take a chance drafting it and hoping its not that big of a deal to the admissions people?

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rowingmyboat
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby rowingmyboat » Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:13 pm

I had a similar situation with my LOR. I just explained to them that I was worried that it may look dishonest if they recognized my writing style and I wanted to be overly cautious. I sent them all the things you sent them.

In summary, just be honest that you are worried and ask if there is anything (short of writing it yourself) that you can do to help them more. Worst they can say is no, and then you get another lor writer anyway.

LawWeb
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby LawWeb » Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:17 pm

Just write your own letter. I did it for one recommender. If yours already snapped back "has something changed," it means they want you to do it. It's a gift. Honestly, just write a great letter. Put yourself in their shoes, but don't be shy about saying nice things. I wrote mine with "one of the best employees I've worked with" "not just hard working, but always a pleasure to be around" When I sent it, I felt a bit like it might offend the person, but they said, "I would have written exactly the same thing." They just want to help you. Think of what points would be helpful, and if they don't think it sounds like them they can change a word. Since it will be sent directly by them, no none will consider it fraud/etc. You obviously earned a lot of trust, and should cash in...

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rowingmyboat
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby rowingmyboat » Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:32 pm

LawWeb wrote:Just write your own letter. I did it for one recommender. If yours already snapped back "has something changed," it means they want you to do it. It's a gift. Honestly, just write a great letter. Put yourself in their shoes, but don't be shy about saying nice things. I wrote mine with "one of the best employees I've worked with" "not just hard working, but always a pleasure to be around" When I sent it, I felt a bit like it might offend the person, but they said, "I would have written exactly the same thing." They just want to help you. Think of what points would be helpful, and if they don't think it sounds like them they can change a word. Since it will be sent directly by them, no none will consider it fraud/etc. You obviously earned a lot of trust, and should cash in...


You've got a point. Susan Estrich's book "How to Get Into Law School" says if your prof offers to let you write it yourself, then by all means go for it. I considered writing mine but I couldn't do it well at all, but it is kind of like a gift if you can pull it off. This will go against all conventional TLS wisdom though.

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fathergoose
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby fathergoose » Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:44 pm

Neatrends wrote:If you think 1 in 3 rec letters really are drafted by the individual being recommended, are you also implying that its no big deal?

Not really. I'm just saying it's probably far more commonplace than you would think based off of TLS prevailing wisdom. Personally, if the recommender signs it and sends it, I don't see how you can get in trouble. On the other hand it wouldn't sit all that well with me and you lose out on them giving a different perspective on why you are great. Any letter you write will likely just repeat all the things you tried to get across in your PS and resume and a third party viewpoint can be very beneficial for you I think.

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Neatrends
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby Neatrends » Fri Sep 09, 2011 11:02 pm

You guys want to hear what the real kicker is? I had nominated this professor for a teaching award a while back, so since he received a nomination, he e-mail me abut a year ago saying thanks for nominating me, could you please write a letter so that I can win the award (I did it, and no, I did not ask him to write it for me) HA.


Yea I'm pretty sure it will sound like a reiteration of all the things I've tried to get across in the other parts of my application. So if the adcoms realize it was at least partly written by me, it cant HURT me right? It may just not help my chances, but it wouldn't be detrimental right?

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amc987
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby amc987 » Sat Sep 10, 2011 12:20 am

Neatrends wrote:So if the adcoms realize it was at least partly written by me, it cant HURT me right? It may just not help my chances, but it wouldn't be detrimental right?


No, I'm pretty sure it could hurt you. Before you submit your applications, you have to sign a certifying statement that says that the information you've provided is true, complete, and accurate to the best of your knowledge. Presenting a rec that was really written by you as having been written by an esteemed professor at your university is a violation of that agreement. I don't have any personal experience with this, but I'm guessing that if a school you applied to found out that you wrote one of your recs in any way, it would be grounds for the school to automatically reject you and report you to LSAC. If the school had already admitted you it could rescind your acceptance. Getting caught could even affect your ability to apply to law school in the future. Even if people sometimes write their own recs without the schools finding out, you're taking a huge risk by doing so. The consequences could be catastrophic.

4910
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby 4910 » Sat Sep 10, 2011 2:24 am

i can't stand the "i am too busy" bullshit professors give to make students write their own letters. honestly, i have written letters for many undergrad students and it literally takes me 15-25 minutes on average to write a good one if i just commit myself to it and focus.

if you wrote one for him and got him a teaching award, i think he owes you the consideration to write a simple letter. he is a professor, not hilary clinton.

avemundi
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby avemundi » Sat Sep 10, 2011 3:26 am

amc987 wrote:
Neatrends wrote:So if the adcoms realize it was at least partly written by me, it cant HURT me right? It may just not help my chances, but it wouldn't be detrimental right?


No, I'm pretty sure it could hurt you. Before you submit your applications, you have to sign a certifying statement that says that the information you've provided is true, complete, and accurate to the best of your knowledge. Presenting a rec that was really written by you as having been written by an esteemed professor at your university is a violation of that agreement. I don't have any personal experience with this, but I'm guessing that if a school you applied to found out that you wrote one of your recs in any way, it would be grounds for the school to automatically reject you and report you to LSAC. If the school had already admitted you it could rescind your acceptance. Getting caught could even affect your ability to apply to law school in the future. Even if people sometimes write their own recs without the schools finding out, you're taking a huge risk by doing so. The consequences could be catastrophic.


OP: Maybe you could say something along these lines to the professor? You could mention how strict this policy is and how dire the consequences would be if you were found out, and since the law schools will already have examples of your writing, it'd be easy for them to figure it out...etc, etc, etc.

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tyro
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby tyro » Sat Sep 10, 2011 3:46 am

Ken wrote:Law schools do not look fondly upon letters of recommendation that have been drafted by applicants. Admissions officers have stated that they can tell if an applicant has drafted his or her own letter of recommendation because it either mimics too closely the applicant’s own writing style or fails to effectively capture the point of view that a recommender inherently possesses. Professors and employers, by virtue of their position, have a perspective and a point of evaluation that is nearly impossible for an applicant to emulate. An applicant cannot completely evaluate himself objectively in terms of his intellectual ability and most definitely cannot discuss himself in a comparative manner, a quality found in the best letters of recommendation. Drafting your own letter of recommendation is, essentially, consciously choosing to submit a weak letter of recommendation.

If your potential recommendor is being a lil bit shady with the emails, then drop him/her or negotiate because they are failing to do a part of their job and being lazy, acting in an unethical manner, and ultimately will not serve you well by asking you to do something that is so clearly wrong.

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cinephile
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby cinephile » Sat Sep 10, 2011 10:08 am

I had a similar situation with a professor for a recommendation for a different type of program. When I told her I just wasn't comfortable doing it, she wrote it herself. But if she hadn't, I would have asked someone else.

MumofCad
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby MumofCad » Sat Sep 10, 2011 12:25 pm

tyro wrote:If your potential recommendor is being a lil bit shady with the emails, then drop him/her or negotiate because they are failing to do a part of their job and being lazy, acting in an unethical manner, and ultimately will not serve you well by asking you to do something that is so clearly wrong.


+1

I'm surprised no one else is mentioning that the Professor is acting unethical and could themselves get into issues with asking you to do this in the first place. Do you have a scholarship/pre-law advisor that you could casually inform of the situation?

njskatchmo
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby njskatchmo » Sat Sep 10, 2011 1:40 pm

This is a VERY common practice. You write your letter. It highlights everything you think is important to highlight. They strike out anything they don't feel comfortable with and add things they think are important to highlight. Everything in the end becomes something that they are willing to stand behind saying. In effect, it's the same thing. If you are really hesitant, simply draft "talking points" that you think the writer is most qualified to comment on.

Professors are busy, it helps them not to have to write from scratch.

LawWeb
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby LawWeb » Sat Sep 10, 2011 8:05 pm

amc987 wrote:
Neatrends wrote:So if the adcoms realize it was at least partly written by me, it cant HURT me right? It may just not help my chances, but it wouldn't be detrimental right?


No, I'm pretty sure it could hurt you. Before you submit your applications, you have to sign a certifying statement that says that the information you've provided is true, complete, and accurate to the best of your knowledge. Presenting a rec that was really written by you as having been written by an esteemed professor at your university is a violation of that agreement. I don't have any personal experience with this, but I'm guessing that if a school you applied to found out that you wrote one of your recs in any way, it would be grounds for the school to automatically reject you and report you to LSAC. If the school had already admitted you it could rescind your acceptance. Getting caught could even affect your ability to apply to law school in the future. Even if people sometimes write their own recs without the schools finding out, you're taking a huge risk by doing so. The consequences could be catastrophic.

I would distinguish between "really written by you" and drafting a letter for the professor to use. This happens all the time in the workplace - a secretary drafts a letter for the CEO, a prof's assistant drafts a letter for her/him, etc. It is only ethically problematic if it gets sent by you without the prof. really having the final say. Or if you paid a prof to say things they didn't believe in. Or if the exercise is used dishonestly (i.e. you sneak in "I closed 10 $1million dollar deals on the job" or with a prof "I had perfect attendance" when you didn't). But the leap from drafting a letter as asked to send to a prof, who has the final say, to fraud is not legit. As long as the draft gets sent to the prof, who has the final say, edit, and who puts it on their stationary and signs it and sends it, as required, nothing untoward is going on. For added assurance, I would check the box that says you waive the right to see the recommendation - that way the prof really can tear the whole thing up without you knowing and submit an entirely different assessment. In short, it's not about fraud/lying, it's about helping a poor prof who likely has dozens of these to crank out and is asking for some help.

edited for typorama
Last edited by LawWeb on Sun Sep 11, 2011 4:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

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skw
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Re: Help! Recommender has asked me to write my own letter

Postby skw » Sat Sep 10, 2011 9:28 pm

For goodness sake, draft a kick ass letter and then have a couple of good friends edit it to change the voice/style. Double check your PS and any other essays you submit to ensure you're not repeating key phrases. Send it to your professor. He will edit it and add some things and strike others. Sheesh. This is not the huge deal that some seem to think...




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