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I've just graduated in Brazil and I plan to apply in some different Master courses in US. I plan to apply to different universities and I did not want to ask my professors to write many different letters.

Should the letter of recommendation be specific to the university I am applying to or can I use a generic letter for all applications?

  • possible duplicate of Who should write a recommendation letter? – RoboKaren Mar 5 '15 at 5:20
  • I am voting to put this on hold as too broad: please revise to ask only one question at a time. – jakebeal Mar 5 '15 at 5:37
  • I gave it an edit to focus on the main issue that may make the question unique in relation to other questions on the site. I'd ask the digital question separately. – Jeromy Anglim Mar 5 '15 at 5:51
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Never hold your own recommendation letter (looks unethical), let your current lecturers send the recommendation letter to the universities directly (via email for example), that you applied for.

Most universities, ask for two recommendation letters, by asking the information of the lecturers (e.g., email, address, phone, etc.) who do that for you. So the recommendation letters will be sent by your lecturers (e.g., email, mail, online form, etc.) to the universities you applied for; without you seeing/holding the letter.

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    In many cases, recommendation letters can be submitted by your recommeder using a web site and don't need to be mailed. – Brian Borchers Mar 4 '15 at 15:27
  • But I shoul wait one year after graduation to start applications (for personal issues). So I was thinking of taking the letters with me without the need of asking my professors for a letter one year after finishing the course. Is it really a problem? – FELIPE_RIBAS Mar 4 '15 at 15:27
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    @FELIPE_RIBAS Doesn't matter. You ask them then. Holding Your own letters means you told them what to write and you do agree with their opinion about you; and obviously you read it first hand. – o-0 Mar 4 '15 at 15:31
  • I see, even though do not fully agree since they were willing to write their own opinion about me and I would just take them with me. I will talk with them. If for some reason I still take the letter with me, will it be any useful at any place or probably no one will accept? – FELIPE_RIBAS Mar 4 '15 at 15:38
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    @FELIPE_RIBAS A letter that does not come directly from your recommender is worthless. You might as well just throw your application fee in the trash. As Brian Borchers points out, most applications are now done online and your recommenders will need to upload the letter to the website directly. You can let them know now that you'll be applying in a year; that they can at least take some notes now or draft the letter. But that's the best you can do. – Ben Webster Mar 4 '15 at 16:20
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It general, as the departments you are applying to are similar, your recommendation writers will probably write a template letter that can be quickly modified to a particular university. They should be specific enough for each university, but the overall picture of you will be the same in each.

Usually these days, these letters are done via a secure email or webpage of sorts where they can ask privately questions of your recommenders. (Probable e-signed) In the rare cases, I've heard of doing it through the mail, in which cases, I would help your recommenders with envelopes, with stamps and addresses.

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Well, I am a student who also had to get two letters of recommendation from professors when I was in my university (I'm on exchange right now), and I think I have learned the lesson very well: do not write a generic letter and simply ask your professors to sign them. They have more experience than you, and they could even have passed through the same situation that you are experiencing right now. So why would you ask them to shut their mouths while you write all the stuff you want? It does not make sense, because they may know more than you about how the admission process works, and also how some universities like those letters to be written.

Since you still have some time (and planning that now is a good idea), my advice is to ask them to write the letters for you, and then you both sign. It's more natural, honest, and ethical.

  • But that is what I was going to do but it seems to be a bad idea since I will be seeing the letter (according to the other answers here). – FELIPE_RIBAS Mar 4 '15 at 19:05
  • And what is the problem of you seeing the letter? If the professor is willing to recommend you, he or she is probably not saying anything bad about you or compromising your application, right? – Matheus Danella Mar 4 '15 at 19:12
  • That is what I thought so. I was willing to take those letters with me and apply all by myself in the near future using those letters but it's being said that is better that my professor direclty send it to the university I am applying to. – FELIPE_RIBAS Mar 4 '15 at 19:20
  • Well, that can be true. It would be better if your professor could submit this letter by him or herself using a website. But, is it feasible? What are the chances of having your letter lost into bureaucracy? "Oh cool one more letter among our 1000 received today...<mark email as junk>" I would like the folks of the first answer to clarify this problem for us. – Matheus Danella Mar 4 '15 at 19:51

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