On Writing Your Own Letter of Recommendation

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 points.

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.

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