Letters of Recommendation

Writing letters of recommendation, at the moment exclusively for students, is a new responsibility for me, and it is one of the central duties of my profession. When requesting a letter of recommendation from me, please consider the fact that unlike more senior mathematicians who have done this hundreds of times, I am new to this game, and, following Ravi's advice, it is in your best interest to make my job as easy as possible. 

Procedural aspects:
  • Contact me via email to request a letter of recommendation at least 5 weeks in advance of your first deadline. 
  • Shortly after this, we will meet, either in person or over phone, to discuss if I am a good choice for you. If I feel that I am not able to write a strong or compelling letter, I will tell you as much. This reinforces the 5 week deadline above - you will want to have ample time to find a replacement. 
  • If I agree to write a letter please send all supporting documents and a list of programs/jobs where you will apply with deadlines (I used a two column list to do this as an undergraduate) one month before the deadline. Please also give me a heads up about non-standard letter procedures, such as having to send things via physical mail or special websites. 
  • In a single PDF file, please send me the following documents and answers to the questions.
Questions:
  • What is your name and preferred personal pronoun?
  • In what capacity and for how long have we known each other? 
  • What aspects of yourself should the letter address? What do you self-assess as your strengths as a mathematician?
  • Are there highlights on your CV that I should pay special attention to? Are there non-standard circumstances I should be aware of in reading your file?
  • What are your long term goals? If you are applying to graduate school, do you have an area of mathematics that you are especially interested in? 
  • If you are applying for an industry job, what aspects of your being should I be address in this letter?
Documents:
  • CV
  • transcript (an unofficial one is perfectly fine)
  • a list of your mathematics classes and a short description of the classes themselves (i.e. don't make me look up what Math 380 at your university is, just tell me you took abstract algebra)
  • copies of any papers or theses you have written.
If your letter has not been submitted within 24 hours of a deadline, please send me a reminder. Also, sometimes graduate school applications do not request letters from recommenders until the applicant has submitted the application. Do not put me in a situation where being away from email for 24 hours will make me miss a deadline. Corollary: The problem does not arise if you submit your application more than 24 hours before the deadline.

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