Recommendation Letters

(Thanks to Dave Musicant for the skeleton of these instructions.)

If you'd like me to write a letter of recommendation for you (for summer research opportunities, graduate schools, fellowships, whatever), then here are some guidelines for the information that I need from you. First, you should get in touch with me (come by office hours, email, ...) to discuss whatever you're applying for. For example, if you're applying to graduate schools then it will be helpful for us to discuss your candidate list of schools early in the process. Then I'll want you to give me all of the following:

  1. Plenty of lead time.
    You should ask me for a letter at least one month before the first deadline that you'd like me to meet.
  2. Information about you. (Please email to me in either PDF (preferred) or plain text, or print it out—I don't have Word.)
    1. A reminder of which classes you took from me and which terms you took them.
    2. A transcript (unofficial).
    3. A resume/c.v. if you have one.
    4. A draft of your personal statement, essay, or whatever you're producing as your part of the application.
    5. Any particular things that you'd like me to include in the letter. Don't be modest! Take this as the chance to remind me of relevant things that you've done that you think I ought to include. (I may choose to leave something that I know out, but I can't choose to include something that I've forgotten!)
  3. Information about the things for which you're applying.
    1. A summary table of all of the places you'd like me to send a letter. Specifically, you should include all of the following information:
      • Due date (sort the table by increasing date!).
      • Instructions for submitting the letter (URL for electronic submission, mailing address for paper submission, email address).
      • Any special notes about this particular application. (What program are you applying for? Do you have a specific advisor with whom you hope to work? Etc.)
    2. If the letter is to be sent as a hard copy, please give me an addressed, stamped envelope attached to any forms that I have to fill out.
  4. Some important notes:
  5. A reminder as the deadline approaches.
    You should send me an email about one to two weeks before the first deadline to make sure that I haven't forgotten about the deadline.
  6. A post-mortem.
    Once you hear back about your applications, please let me know how it went!

Thanks, and good luck!