Department of Mathematics and Statistics

NSF Math-Bio Undergraduate Fellowship

How to ask for a recommendation letter?

Faculty members need time and information to write a recommendation letter.

Time

When you ask a faculty member for a recommendation letter, make sure you will give them at least one week to finish the letter. In this generally a good idea to ask the faculty member no later than two weeks before you need the letter.

Information

You need to let the faculty know all of the following:
  1. What is the needed format of the letter? Specify to whom and to what address the letter should be sent (and whether by email or a regular mail)
  2. What is your name, year, and major?
  3. For what are you applying? (fellowship, scholarship, graduate school, etc.). List the program(s) to which you are applying, together with due dates.
  4. How long have they known you, and what is their relationship(s) to you? (instructor, advisor, mentor, etc.) Have you graded or tutored for them? If so, for what class(es) and when?
  5. For what class(es) have they had you, what final grade(s) did they assign you, and how did you distinguish yourself in their class(es)?
  6. How would you describe yourself?
  7. What are some of your academic accomplishments?
  8. What are some of your nonacademic accomplishments?
  9. What makes them particularly qualified to write a letter for you?
  10. What makes you particularly qualified for this position/honor/award?
  11. What are your long term goals and will this position/honor/award help? If so, how?
  12. Additional comments (REU's, summer research, interesting jobs, hobbies, etc.)?

Remember that what you do not tell the faculty member may not appear on the recommendation letter (even if you are next Einstein and the faculty members know it about you, it may slip out of their mind at the moment when they write the letter). So do not hesitate to write everything that is related to the application. You are the one that is the most qualified person to write something about yourself.

Also, make sure that the information you provide is neatly organized so that the faculty does not have to dig too deep in your description of yourself.