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Nov 20, 2001
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When i first made my file at the LOR holding place, I told them it would be a confidential file. BUT--

I have already read one LOR from my PI that he handed to me after he sent my LOR in.

And now, another PI that I have worked with a while ago asked me to write my own LOR and said he'll sign it.

I don't feel too good about myself doing this, because afterall, I did say it would be a confidential file. I can't have this guy write an LOR for me because he tried, and wrote a whole two paragraphs for me. :( He said I need to elaborate on what he said, and he will sign it. Does this seem to be unethical to you guys? How can I put a twist on this situation so I don't feel guilty about it. I mean, I don't want to lie to schools at interview time if they ask me, "so did the PI actually write your letter?" I don't know why a school would even ask, but I feel rotten anyway.


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Jul 12, 2001
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The reason you waive your right to see the letter is so that the letter writer can provide a candid evaluation, knowing you won't be looking at the letter. This is to encourage letter writers to come forward with negative assissments. If you in fact waived the right to see the letter before he wrote it, and only read it when he put it in front of you, then I don't think you did anything wrong (I had kind of the same situation, only my Mom read the letter that she had to go and extract from this doctor's office. She didn't copy it to show me, but she did tell me what was in it).

As far as writing your own letter, it's very common. You just give your suggestions for the letter, but the actual letter is his, and you don't see it after he's signed it. Mention to him that you've waived your right to see the letter, so you don't want to see it after it's signed. I doubt you will ever be asked about this at interviews. I've never heard of it happening.


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My understanding is that by making the file confidential you can't walk in to the holding place and ask to see your LORs. If the writers want to show you they can, signed or unsigned.

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The confidentiality has to do with the Buckley amendment, among other things:

1) Under the Buckley amendment, you can see anything about you to make sure that the information is correct. This includes LORs. Waiving your right means that you can't go to the admissions office and ask for them. Well, you can, but they won't give them to you.

2) This also means that the recommender knows that you will never ever see their letter, unless they show it to you. This way, they can write an actual recommendation, without worrying about if they wrote something that you'd be mad about. Adcoms know that the recommendation is more accurate too.

In this case, you waived your right, but the recommenders wanted you to see the letter. That is fine under the agreement you signed, and is not unethical by any means. It just means that they wouldn't have written a different recommendation regardless of if you waived the right or not.

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