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
Things I need from you
- 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.
- Information about you. (Please email to me either as a PDF (preferred) or in plain text, or as a Google Doc link—I don't have Word. Also, please don't zip your attachments.)
- A reminder of which classes you took from me and which terms
you took them.
- A transcript (unofficial).
- A resume/c.v. if you have one.
- A draft of your personal statement, essay, or whatever you're
producing as your part of the application.
- 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!)
- Information about the things for which you're applying. Send me a summary table of all of the places you'd like me to send a letter, in the form of a Google sheet. You can model your sheet off of this one. Include 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.)
- 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.
- A post-mortem. Once you hear back about your applications, please let me know how it went!
Some important notes
- Please send me one single email with all the items from #2 and #3 above all attached.
- Please waive your access to the letter. This is more for
the people reading your application than for me: it is important that
the people reviewing your application believe that I am writing
completely honestly; they may think that a letter without the waiver
will be less frank.
- In the category of ships that have already sailed: I'm grudgingly on board with using electronic recommendation forms.
Thanks, and good luck!
(Thanks to Dave Musicant for the skeleton of an early version of these instructions.)