I'm currently applying to Research Masters and PhD programs. One of my letter of recommendation writers asked me to write up the first draft of the letter, so I've been trying to do so (pretty sure the "first draft" will also be the thing he directly submits). After doing a bunch of research, most resources advised doing two things:

  1. Use concrete anecdotes and examples to show the student's proficiency instead of just meaningless praise. I.e. Describe how he showed he was intelligent through a specific task he completed.

  2. Directly compare the student to other students. I.e. "The student distinguished himself from his peers", "One of the brightest students I've taught", "Stood out from the rest of the research assistants etc", "Top X% in his class", etc.

The first is fairly easy to do since I obviously have a ton of anecdotes about myself. However, I'm not really sure how to do the second. I obviously don't know how my LOR writer sees me relative to my peers, and it seems extremely presumptuous to hand him a draft saying that I was one of the best students he's had. How am I supposed to compare myself to his other students for him?

Does anyone have any advice on this? Unfortunately, I can't get another LOR writer, this specific writer is extremely important to my application. It also seems extremely important to do the comparison, almost every resource and example I found repeatedly stressed the importance of doing this...

1 Answer 1


Write the letter the way you want it written. Send it to your recommender along with a note that says something like

I've been offered advice to the effect that the best letters offer a direct comparison to a peer group. Toward this end, I've provided some recommended language comparing me to the group I feel is most relevant for this letter in paragraph X. Obviously, I'm not perfectly comfortable doing this, and I suggest that you read that paragraph carefully and adjust it for accuracy.

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