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Ryguy96

Drafting your own reference letter?

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Posted (edited)

Hey everyone, 

So I recently asked a former professor of mine if he would be able to write me a reference letter for law school applications, and he has asked me to "write a draft letter with key points about myself to the school I am applying" to which he will then amend with with points about my academic work in his class. 

Is this typical or out of the ordinary? and does anyone have some tips on exactly how I should go about doing this? It seems so odd to have to essentially write myself a reference and talk about my own strengths from a 3rd person perspective. Also,  i'm unsure of how to even format it. 

This prof knows me pretty well, I did exceptionally well in his class, and he has probably the highest qualifications of any professor I've had, which all adds up to why I chose him. 

Thanks!

Edited by Ryguy96

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One one my references asked me to do this as well. I too found it quite strange writing from this perspective. 

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I don't do it, but it really isn't a big deal.  It isn't super common, but it definitely happens. Just think of it as the important points from your resume in narrative form.  Also, the qualifications of your referees are irrelevant as long as they are professors.

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Though I had my two academic references lined up, a parliamentarian that I was staffing (and a former lawyer herself) proactively offered to write me a third, non-academic reference letter. I agreed, thinking that at worst it would be redundant and at best it'd be a minor point in my favour. The day the application package was due she asked me to draft the letter myself, throw her esig on it, submit it through the portal, and answer the additional character evaluation questions for her. I wrote quite the puff-piece I must say (like all above have said, speak towards your resume strengths and make some positive character judgements about your moral fibre being uniquely suited to the legal profession and all that). In retrospect, because i'm going to UofT I'm glad I know it wasn't an undue influence on my application! 

(I also got my first acceptance at 12:00PM on a week day and the two of us had a few lunch-time beers in her legislative office to celebrate, an all-round excellent experience). 

 

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I'm surprised that profs do this, especially if they know you well. It's one thing to provide some talking points and some work that you did for the class if they prof doesn't know you, but to have you draft the entire letter, yeah, that's surprising.  

As for someone who asks you to not only write the letter but then to put a signature on it and answer questions that they should be answering? That is just plain wrong.  

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I had a prof ask for this. I felt a little weird doing it, and eventually just got a reference from a different prof. 

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Posted (edited)

I think this is surprisingly common, unfortunately. 

If you are feeling uncomfortable recommending yourself, perhaps consider writing only the ‘bones’ of the letter: who they are, who you are, how they know you, and the work you did that makes them an appropriate reference, etc. Leave blanks where they should make their own assessment. This allows room for the prof to exercise their own judgement (which they will do anyway), while saving them the bulk of the writing.

For example:

“In my Advanced Econometrics course, Soandso received the highest available grade. She demonstrated an [xxxx] understanding of difficult material, producing a [xxxx] paper on [whatever the topic is].

...

I am confident she’d be a [xxxx] law student.”

Edited by onepost

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2 hours ago, erinl2 said:

I'm surprised that profs do this, especially if they know you well. It's one thing to provide some talking points and some work that you did for the class if they prof doesn't know you, but to have you draft the entire letter, yeah, that's surprising.  

As for someone who asks you to not only write the letter but then to put a signature on it and answer questions that they should be answering? That is just plain wrong.  

I’d certainly agree. As a slight point of clarification, I did practically force her to look over what i’d written but no edits were made and it was clear that it wasn’t the expectation that this would happen. All round strange experience, perhaps the epitome of why many schools place less, or in UofT’s case, no value on LoRs. 

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This really surprises me. It feels like academic dishonesty and defeats the purpose of a letter of reference entirely.

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Thanks for all of the replies! Honestly I was definitely skeptical about it at first, but as has been echoed above I suppose it could be a good opportunity to ensure that the letter stands out from the crowd and isn't just rushed or generic. I guess I also didn't want to go overboard writing about how great I think I am 😂 but using your resume and leaving parts open for the prof to insert his own judgement are good ideas that should help.   

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On 8/8/2019 at 3:06 PM, chaboywb said:

This really surprises me. It feels like academic dishonesty and defeats the purpose of a letter of reference entirely.

Literally plagiarism. Am also shocked.

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11 minutes ago, SlickRick said:

Literally plagiarism. Am also shocked.

How is it plagiarism lol

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Rashabon said:

How is it plagiarism lol

Signing their name on something they didn’t do lol

Edit: I’ll be honest, I didn’t read the entire initial post. I assumed it was a case of “write the whole thing and I’ll sign it for you.” 

Edited by SlickRick

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1 minute ago, SlickRick said:

Signing their name on something they didn’t do lol

That's not plagiarism dude, plagiarism is copying someone else's work and passing it off as original. So, quite literally, not plagiarism.

It's also not any more of a problem than an assistant drafting a letter that the professor signs, or do you think that every person has to type their own documentation up?

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Posted (edited)

Yeah, this is all getting quite dramatic..."shocked", "academic dishonesty", etc.  As I noted above, I've seen the before and afters and professors aren't just signing off on what students write (except perhaps in very rare cases).  They are using it as a template.  And in rare cases when they are submitting them as written by students, I still doubt they aren't reading them at all.  And if they are reading them, then they are signing off on those comments about the student.  If they thought those things weren't true, they wouldn't sign them.  I can also assure all of you who seem to be quite upset by this that when students draft language for letters it is far less gushing than what the professors would either write themselves or what edits they make to those letters.  So this isn't some sort of gateway to strong reference letters.  In short, relax y'all.  

I wrote my own reference letters when I taught undergrads, but I can definitely see why professors would ask students for a first draft.  First, sometimes the best students in the class don't actually develop any sort of relationship with the professor.  This can be partly attributed to growing university class sizes.  It is no longer the case at most universities that students will have a number of upper year seminars with 20 or 25 students, which was once the norm and which afforded an opportunity to get to know students.  Second, writing reference letters is burdensome.  You are sometimes writing letters for multiple students applying to the same programs and it is difficult to make them sound different when you don't know the students.  There's only so many ways to say "this student always came to class and got As on all assignments".  It's also burdensome because all of the reference letter requests come at the same time of year.  And finally, it's burdensome because universities don't care about the time spent on such things.  No one in administration knows or cares that you wrote 40 letters one year while a colleague only wrote 20.  So while we do it because we think we owe it to students because someone once did it for us and, in the case of some students who we actually know, because we want those students to get into the programs they are applying to, there is absolutely nothing whatsoever in it for us and the time we spend writing those letters is time that we could have been doing something that will actually advance our careers.

Edited by ProfReader
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Really not that big a deal. "You write it, I'll read and sign it" is pretty normal. Not common, in my experience asking and getting letters for various things, but once in a while. 

 

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