Writing Your Own Letter of Recommendation
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Balance praise with candidness. Many people feel
uncomfortable praising themselves. If you are the shy type, cast
aside your timidity and try to be objective about your
accomplishments. Letters of recommendation are, by definition,
laudatory: so grab a sheet of paper and make a list of your good
qualities. On the other hand, don't completely discard modesty and
err on the side of pure, distilled self-praise: your supervisor
might not agree that you are indeed "superhumanly brilliant", and
anyway admissions readers are much keener on candid, well-balanced
letters than ones rife with superlatives.
Pick wisely and discard the fluff. Writing your own letter of
recommendation is not unlike putting together your resume: you must
choose your accomplishments carefully. A letter that highlights two
or three specific qualities, accomplishments, and achievements is
far stronger than one that covers all your positive traits. If you
are having trouble paring down the content, ask a friend or
colleague to look over the text and pick out the most impressive
Maintain credibility. Concentrate on making the letter
believable. This doesn't mean just sticking with the facts; it means
finding a voice that accurately portrays you from the recommendation
writer's perspective. Remember that the letter must be stylistically
different from your other submitted written work. Vary your
vocabulary, adapt expressions, and generally avoid phrasing things
exactly as you did, say, in your personal statement or cover letter.
Avoid redundancy. Don't repeat accomplishments that have been
described in detail elsewhere in your application. The letter should
support your main accomplishments rather than merely rehash your
resume. Write about these accomplishments in a new light, expanding
on areas where you did not have the opportunity to elaborate on
elsewhere in the application or cover letter.
Learn more about the structure of the