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Writing your own Letter of Recommendation

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by calaxer19, Dec 3, 2002.

  1. calaxer19

    calaxer19 Senior Member
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    I am applying for a scholarship which requires a letter of recommendation.

    I asked my research mentor (who is extremely busy right now) since he's the only person who knows me beyond my ID number or test scores. He is also one of the nicest professors I have ever met.

    In any case, I e-mailed him my request and he replied asking me to help him out by writing the letter myself. He said he would write some words and we would combine our letters into one.

    I have heard of this being done, but I'm completely lost on how to go about writing a letter about myself. Any tips? Is this a common practice - i.e. does it mean anything good/bad?

    Any help would be appreciated!
     
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  3. Mutterkuchen

    Mutterkuchen Senior Member
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    It does not mean anything bad. I would do a search on Google and look for sample LORs. The best advice I can give is to not hold back. Don't lie about anything, but make yourself sound as good as possible. Don't hold back. Let your recommender decide if something is over the top.
     
  4. eschauberger

    eschauberger Some Guy
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    I've had someone ask me to do that for me. Personally, I think it is horrible and borderline unethical. Nonetheless, I had to do something similiar. I ended up just sending him a list, which some friends helped me compile, of some things I'd hope he'd say about me (this wasn't for medical school interviews however).
    I think it's a better idea to try to find some other way to go about it. I had my preceptor for a summer program tell me to write the letter for him. Instead, I stole some ideas from the Univ Wisc recommendation guidlines form, and made a mini for for the department to send around, so the secretary could write most of it instead. This took the actual writing of the letter off of him, but still gave me a quality letter and left me with no editorial comment regarding it. You could do something similiar. Give him/her a list of qualities the school looks for. I can email you the one I made.
    In the end, I'd be careful about it--especially since most medical schools make you sign that waivor sheet. You may be technically breaking the rules in some people's eyes. I know it's your legal right to see the letters, but this isn't the same as providing editorial comment--let alone writing it. It is your write to see the letter, but in my experience, it is best to waive your right because it will raise a certain amount of question in an ADCOM's member mind--and that's exactly what you don't want to do.
     
  5. SM-UCLA tech

    SM-UCLA tech CCOM MS4 soon OB/Gyn PGY1
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    I know someone who did that. Just be careful to make the letter sound real and not "too" glowing. When I read what he wrote, I thought that it was a little overboard.

    I also had a physician ask me to do the same. I agree that it is slightly unethical......but that's just me. I decided to politely say no thank you to him. About 2 weeks later, he came to me and asked if I still wanted a letter from him. I said yes, and he ended up writing one himself.
     
  6. Mutterkuchen

    Mutterkuchen Senior Member
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    First of all, I disagree that it is unethical at all. This person asked you to do this, and is going to sign the letter. As long as the person can read the letter and has the option to make changes, I don't see the problem.

    I agree with you that you should definitely waive the right to see your letters. However, if a letter writer chooses to show you what he wrote, there is nothing wrong with that. This issue is relevant because of a 1970s court ruling which allowed students to see their app file, including letters. The court maintained that students had a right to see it, unless they waived that right. Therefore, you can waive the "right" to see the letter from you recommender, but s/he can show it to you if s/he wants to.
     
  7. SM-UCLA tech

    SM-UCLA tech CCOM MS4 soon OB/Gyn PGY1
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    that's definitely true.....
    but doesn't it imply that you haven't seen the letter of rec when you sign that waiver?

    and the waiver also has a section where you declare that you do not waive that right.

    in this case would that mean that you are supposed to initial that part?

    I'm just playing the devil's advocate here.....I really don't think it's that big of a deal. After all....most schools will read letter's for you so there aren't any "negative" LOR's that sneak into your file.
     
  8. MDwillneverbe

    MDwillneverbe Junior Member
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    I think the most ethical way to proceed with this is to write a CV with all your courses taken thus far and grades, research experience, organizations you belong to,background and anything that you think is important to knowing you as a person and give it to him- and then it will be very eary for him to compose a letter
    This is the format most premed committees recommend to get LOR's
    Oh and also attach a note as to what you are applying for
     
  9. mikecwru

    mikecwru M.D. = Massive Debt
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    A small point, and this has come up during residency interviews. You waive your right to ask to see the letter. This does not necessarily mean you cannot see the letter. After initialling the box, you can't ask Dr. X to see his letter or your school or the receiving school. But if Dr. X mails you a copy of his own volition, it's ok to read. The "waiving" is supposed to take the "stress" off Dr. X and allow him to write an honest letter.

    I have read some of my med school LORs and two of my residency LORs ... one intentionally, one by accident.

    mike
     
  10. conure

    conure Master Distiller
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    This is a great opportunity and I wish more professors, advisors, or supervisors did this. Sometimes getting letters out of people is like pulling teeth, so providing a draft letter greatly speeds up the process. It is also particularly helpful in situations where the prof. doesn't know you all that well.

    Check accepted.com they have a good outline for what a letter should look like.

    Don't just give him a CV, give him a draft including specific things you want emphasized. A good letter of rec says something like "Joe displayed a willingness and ability to explore concepts more thourghouly outside of class. For example,...." then talk about the time you came to a meeting or whatever and offered new ideas based on your independent research. Always backup statements with specific examples.
     
  11. Patrick Noonan

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    Is this scholarship for Wash. U.?
     
  12. calaxer19

    calaxer19 Senior Member
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    Thank you for your replies!

    This is for a group of scholarships offered at my school so I'm not too worried about the letter. In fact, the scholarship is based almost entirely on the essay I have to write, so the letter won't play much a role.

    What I'm most concerned with is remaining on very good terms with the professor. He's the nicest professor I've ever met and I can't say enough about him - I just don't want to screw it up with this.

    Hopefully in a year when I apply, he'll be able to write a solid letter on my behalf himself.

    I think I'm going to have either my friend or gf write a very short letter and submit that - I guess I'm taking the easy way out.

    Thank you for your replies!
     

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