I had a really reputable person write me a recommendation letter for colleges. He told me that he wrote the best recommendation letter in his life. He told me that the recommendation letter hints that I'm the next Steve Jobs and that I'm enlightened etc.

I waived my right to view the letter. I was accepted at many colleges. Now, I think as the recommendation letter is very strong and from a reputable person: it may help me in my future elsewhere.

I really want to see what he wrote. Is it okay to ask the college where I am accepted to give me a copy of the recommendation letter? Otherwise, is it okay to ask the professor who wrote the recommendation letter to send me a copy?

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    @posdef: Probably because waiving the right gives colleges more confidence in the veracity of recommendation letters.
    – Siyuan Ren
    Apr 28, 2015 at 13:04
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    "Is it okay to ask the college where I am accepted to give me a copy of the recommendation letter?" No, because "I waived my right to view the letter." What do you think that means that would make your request a reasonable one? Apr 28, 2015 at 15:54
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    The college has an ethical obligation to the letter writer not to release the letter when the applicant has waived the right to read it. Apr 28, 2015 at 16:32
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    (cont'd) My question was not entirely rhetorical: as with many matters of academic culture, there is more going on here than is fully spelled out. To me "Is it unreasonable to ask the college whether I can see the letter?" sounds like "Is it unreasonable to ask my professor for an advance copy of the final exam?" In both cases there is no rule or right that prevents you from asking this, but the answer is certainly going to be "No. (sotto voce: What a strange question!)" Apr 28, 2015 at 16:45
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    @Steve: It would be much more reasonable to ask the writer for a copy, and that would be sufficient provided they can just give you the letter themselves. A first year college student asking to see their recommendation letter is certainly not so bad...but I still don't recommend doing it. Most academic recommendation letters are written with the understanding that they will never be read by the recommendee. I can't think of a really good reason for the recomendee to need to read it. Honestly, he sounds curious to read good things about himself, which is natural but not the way to go. Apr 28, 2015 at 17:08

4 Answers 4


Why would you ask to see the letter? If the professor in question tells you it was extremely strong, I presume you believe him. Asking to see one's letter after waiving the right to do so is a strange request, and doing so conveys an ignorance of or insensitivity to the norms of the profession.

I would be taken aback if someone asked me this, and would also feel very uncomfortable either refusing or agreeing. Why strain what seems to be a very positive relationship? It is certainly not worth doing so simply for the idle pleasure of reading flattering things about oneself written in another's hand.


Well, you waived the right to view it so I would be surprised if the college where you were accepted would disclose its contents. Why do you want to see it? I wouldn't do this out of idle curiosity.

But when you say, "it may help me in my future elsewhere," perhaps you mean that you'd like a general letter of recommendation from the prof, which might have more or less the same content as this particular letter. If you ever weren't able to reach the prof in the future, having a general letter of recommendation might be of some marginal value. So I think it's reasonable to ask if you're on good terms with him, although I would frame it in that way (as a request for a general letter).

All he can do is say no, and as long as you're not rude or demanding, it's hard to imagine this request negatively affecting your relationship to any meaningful degree.


You can ask, but it is unusual for a student to ask to see their confidential recommendation letter, and the person who wrote the letter is under no obligation to show you the contents of their letter.

Recommendation letters, even ones that are glowingly positive, can contain extremely sensitive and personal information, and as such it is rare for the contents of the recommendation letter to be shown at any point to the person being recommended.

If you're interested in what positive things this person had to say about you, a better avenue of getting those answers is to ask the person directly. Explain the purpose of your question - whether it's for 'selling yourself' in the future for job interviews/resumes, or if it's just simple curiosity or something else - and have a candid talk with the person.

The worst that could happen is that they'll politely decline to comment, and that's okay. Sometimes it's much easier to talk about a person anonymously than it is directly, and while your curiosity is understandable, if they want their feelings to be private, you should respect that.

And of course, you should thank him for writing the letter in the first place - it's a fairly significant thing he did for you.


Its pretty normal to waive your right to see a recommendation letter. That way the recommender can say honest things without worrying if you'll ever read it. If you have a good enough rapport with the recommender, you would probably have the best luck asking him for a copy. Realize this request will be view as highly unusual at the least.

Realize he may say no, and don't pester him or the university you've been accepted to if he doesn't want you reading it. Even if you don't get to see it, you should thank him for helping you get into the college(s) of your choice.

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