Recommendation Letters

You're probably landing on this page because you asked me for a recommendation letter. First off, I'm touched to be asked - thank you for putting your trust in me.

To ensure that my letter can be as helpful to you as possible, please read the following points carefully. If you still think I'm the best person to write your letter, please email me the information detailed in point (3) below.

Point 1

I am always happy to write recommendation letters. However, if you haven't worked very closely with me, all I'll be able to say is something very factual. For example:

These letters can do more harm than good - the admission committee will assume you had no-one else to ask who would say nicer things, and will very likely reject your application.

Furthermore, most recommendation systems will ask me to rate you on a number of dimensions (analytical ability, communication, etc...) compared to your peers (the options are usually "top 1%", "top 5%", etc...) If I've only interracted with you in a classroom setting, I'll have no choice but to select the option that says "insufficient opportunity to observe" for most of these questions.

The key to effective recommendation letters is making them as detailed and specific as possible. So ask yourself - based on all our interactions, will I have enough information to make it very detailed? I can only comment on interactions we've had, or things I know about you first-hand.

Point 2

If you do still want me to write you a letter, please write a rough 1-2 page draft of your recommendation letter yourself, and send it to me. No, this is not a joke; this is a common practice in academia and will help me understand your self-perceived strengths, and what you would ideally like me to communicate about you. Please don't worry - the actual letter I write will probably look nothing like you draft. Please don't feel the need to be modest in your letter, or to impress me - my letter will be based on my experiences with you, not on how good I think your draft letter is.

Point 3

Provide me with one email containing everything I need to complete your recommendation - this includes a list summarizing where the letters are going to and when they are due, your transcript, your resume, any notable recent achievements, and your draft recommendation letter. you must send me these at least 4 weeks before the earliest deadline, and preferably earlier.

Point 4

It is your responsibility to ensure I have submitted the letter on time to every relevant institution. I've never missed one before, but I might, so you should keep track separately and email me three days before any deadline if I have not yet submitted a letter.