Do Universities Check the Authenticity of Recommendation Letter

For graduate schools admission, universities generally require students to submit 2 to 3 letter of recommendation.

Recommendation letter should be given by professors, lecturers, managers who had a chance to work with you, observer your skills and provide recommendation based on their observation. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen always.

HSB reader asked the following question via email.

I want to know how the universities check the authenticity of recommendation letter.If someone write recommendation letter by himself with giving his own phone no. and e-mail address,how Admission office will catch that?

Letter of Recommendation – Authenticity

First we have to figure out percentage of students who write their own recommendation letter vs those who follow the rules and get it written and signed from lecturers/managers/professors.

Last year we did a survey among HSB fans to find out whats going on. Guess what?

About 52% of prospective students write the letter and get it signed from recommender.

Recommendation letter – Survey

We don’t know what percentage of 52% got admission, but from real life experience, universities assume the authenticity of the recommendation letter. Probably very few (less than 1%) might check the authenticity.

How to Fix the System

Students can very well create an email id, get a letter printed in letter head resembling university’s letter head sign and seal it. Most of the colleges don’t give official email id to their lecturers (even if they give one, do professors and lecturers use it?).

You will run into situations where lecturers will give their personal email id (gmail, hotmail, ..). I wonder how many universities take time to email them to check verify the authenticity.

It is very easy to fix the problem.

  • Don’t accept hardcopy of recommendation letters (any one can sign and seal it)
  • Accept only online recommendation letter
  • Students should provide OFFICIAL email id of the managers/professors
  • Example – [email protected]

So, it above steps will can lower number of students trying to write their own letter. But, there are flaws in above method too.

What if recommender asks student for a copy of letter and they can just paste the reply to the email? It’s tough (or impossible) to do such stuffs with professors in US Schools. Its not ethical and doesn’t solve the true purpose of requesting recommendation letter.

When recommenders don’t have the required skills or willing to learn how to write a letter, students don’t have a choice but to write recommendation letter for themselves.

Over to You?

What do you think about those who write their own letter? Can you think of any other way to solve this problem?

22 Comments

  1. Neeraj on January 15, 2017 at 8:44 AM

    My professor forwarded me the mail sent to him by the colleges to attach recommendation. Is it a problem if I attach the LOR ? should i ask the professor to do it or now that he has forwarded me the mail, can i send it myself?

    • Danish Kuknoor on October 22, 2018 at 10:27 AM

      Could you show me the mail the University sent him? Then I would be able to help better. I am a PhD student at Cornell.

  2. Jatin2you on September 6, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    Hi HSB, I have done Diploma and then BE in Comp Engg. I haven’t done HSC and all….Is that an advantage or disadvantage in any way? Apart from that can I take LOR from my Diploma college as I have worked with HOD(Head of Dept) himself and he knows me very well and is able to give a good LOR than my BE college’s profs. Infact he himself was the project guide for my final year project also. 
    Thanks…

  3. harsh on April 23, 2011 at 5:35 AM

    DLF IPL . Its awesome.

  4. Sanjana on March 24, 2011 at 2:27 AM

    Two of the prof's I approached asked me to write a draft of the LOR and give it to them, they just proof-read it and signed it. Only one prof said that she would write it and give it and I appreciated the fact that she did. Well, I would prefer that the prof's themselves would write it because that's how its supposed to be.But sometimes, some prof's don't write good LOR's and that would be a problem for you so in that case, it is better that you write a draft and give it to the prof.

  5. Lavanya on March 19, 2011 at 8:55 AM

    In all honesty, most of the faculty are unable to lucidly express their views about a student in well-written English letter, and therefore, to help the students out, they ask them to write it and then, proof read it and give their suggestions.

    Which, according to me, makes sense.

    What I don't enjoy is that students write letters and send it without the professor's acknowledgement.

  6. MOHAMMED IRFAN on March 18, 2011 at 10:40 PM

    3 LOR’S COMPULSORY FOR ADMISSION IN U.S R TWO IS ENOUGH ..

    PLEASE CLARIFY MY DOUBTS

    IM HAVING ONLY TWO WITH ME

  7. Hari Veturi on February 28, 2011 at 2:17 AM

    My LOR's for under graduation WERE written by my professors. But, none of them have an e-mail address except for 2. I submitted 5 LOR's. I think that mustn't be a problem because they've also given their contact number to know further details.

  8. thokozile on February 27, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    im glad this issue has been brought up. I understand the purpose of a recommendation letter but i think they are overrated and should not be over emphasised. If one has been applyin to grad schools for 2 years its difficult to keep visiting your grad school jus to collect one. Whats important is the transcript and the work experience for postgraduate studies.

  9. Dr Raju Patur on February 26, 2011 at 8:58 PM

    Recommendation letters forged by students are generally very rare and statistically insignificant.

    What is most common is the recommender himself asks for a DRAFT, corrects/modifies and gives to student to post. Rarely a professor will have time and knowledge of the candidate to write all by himself. That apart most professors have standard formats.

    Universities have no time and logistics to verify. But should some thing go wrong with the student like very poor standard, they will sure look into all aspects before checking him/her out.

  10. Peter Patel on February 26, 2011 at 3:11 PM

    University and Public College some times check the authenticity of recommendation letter.

    Public College and Top Most Ranked Universities

    – Asked students to write essays in english in your own words to check language

    – Required written recommendation letter on letter-head of school/university/professor/manager in their writing.

    – May conduct telephonic Interviews.if required..

  11. Dinesh Kumar on February 26, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    The college in which I studied provides official e-mail IDs for our staff. But the irony is that, when the universities sent their invitation for filling out my recommendation letters to them, they simply forwarded the mail back to me and asked me to fill it by myself. This clearly shows that authenticity can me maintained only if staff members show some interest in filling out these recommendation letters.

  12. Avinash Kumpati on February 26, 2011 at 8:37 AM

    It happens everywhere. 90% of the students right their own recommendation letter on behalf of the recommended person.

  13. Gourish on February 26, 2011 at 8:20 AM

    Exactly, the thing about official Email IDs will not work in many universities of India. Its better if the university calls on phone number of the recommender provided by the applicant if at all they need a verification on authenticity.

  14. must on February 26, 2011 at 8:10 AM

    most of the colleges don't maintain a mail server,,, thats an issue to think about when we say Students should provide OFFICIAL email id of the managers/professors
    Example – [email protected],,,

  15. katia on February 26, 2011 at 8:03 AM

    well it happens that sometimes professor are too busy and they ask you to write the letter and they check it and correct it and sign it. And as u are asking for a personal favor you have to do it

  16. deepak sp on February 26, 2011 at 7:37 AM

    Hi,

    The college in which I am doing my engineering does not give its official e-mail id for lecturers or students how am I supposed to get LOR and none of the lecturers are doing any research. I am doing my engineering in an average college. what shall I do now to get LOR ?. I have heard that my department HOD is doing P.hd that's the only thing I came to know from past 2.5 years of my engineering life. HSB can any one guide me please.

    Waiting for your reply.

    • HSB on February 26, 2011 at 7:51 AM

      Its tough see that state of some colleges, where they don't infrastructure to give email ids to lecturers and professors.

      • must on February 26, 2011 at 8:13 AM

        u have to know something HSB,,,, most of the colleges,, say around 90% + colleges in A.P are like that,, so its the system fault,,,,

        • karthik.s on February 26, 2011 at 9:53 AM

          hi deepak! that shud not b an issue. i feel u can approach the staff personally n ask for their general (gmail/ yahoo or any) email id. I guess ur principal n vice principal wud hav completed a phd. n as u hav mentioned ur hod has completed phd, so finally u can take the reco letters frm those 3 staff members. u need not mention the staff members accomplishments in the reco letters, so it's immaterial whether the staff member has completed a project or not.

        • sukesh on February 26, 2011 at 10:04 AM

          Allmost all the colleges in AP r like that many of my friends study in reputed universities and colleges but the act followed by those institutions when compared to an avg institution r the same.
          Reputed institutions do provide an official email id to the proffessors working there but the proffessors wont write an LOR they just give freedom to the students to write their own LOR and the proffessors just sign and attest it. Its a fact and I myself had witnessed it

    • Sri on February 28, 2012 at 2:40 PM

      i am in the same type of college.. 🙁

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