Adam Boocher's Page for Recommendation Letters

This page is for students who are planning to ask me (or have already asked me) to write a letter of recommendation for them for REU applications, summer internships, graduate school admissions etc. I have shamelessly stolen most of these items from Gizem Karaali's page, Mike Orrison's page and his article here.

Who do you want to write a letter for you?

1. Who knows me well enough to comment on my strengths, potential and in general will be able to write me a positive letter? (In my case, for instance, this may translate into: Did you take a course from me and do well? Or maybe you worked on an independent project with me and did well? Did you grade for me or mentor a course I was teaching? Remember that the best letters are from people who know you the best, not necessarily those from whom you took the "hardest" class or hae known the longest.)

2. Is the person familiar with your work? (In my case, for instance, this may translate into: Do I know what your senior thesis / REU project was about, or given a good summary, can I say anything intelligent about it?)

3. Is this letter going to be relevant to your application? (When I write letters I will typically talk about your mathematical work in my classes, and depending on the program, I can comment on how your skills and interests will math the program that you are applying to. But if the program is looking for something very special, and is far from mathematics, I might not be the right choice.)

So you'd like to ask me to write a letter

If you have decided that you want a letter from me, please feel free to email me. In general I say "yes" to writing letters of recommendation provided that I feel I can write you a good letter and that you have given me at least three weeks before the deadline. (I understand that emergencies come up, so don't worry if the deadline is closer, but be aware that I might not have enough time to write you a strong letter.)

What will help me write you the strongest letter?

In order to help me write the strongest possible letter, please send me (as soon as possible) Furthermore, at least two weeks before the first letter is due, email me your answers to the following questions (the more details the better):
  1. What is your name, year, and major?
  2. What are you applying for? (scholarship, graduate school, etc.)
  3. List the programs to which you are applying, together with due dates.
  4. How long have I known you (years/months), and what is my relationship(s) to you (instructor, advisor, etc.)? Have you graded or mentored for me? If so, for what class(es) and when?
  5. For what class(es) have I had you, what final grade(s) did I assign you, and how did you distinguish yourself in my 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 me particularly qualified to write a letter for you?
  10. What makes you particularly qualified for this position/honor/award?
  11. What do you expect / hope you will contribute to the program you are applying for?
  12. What are your long term goals and will this position/honor/award help? If so, how?
  13. Additional comments (REU's, summer research, interesting jobs, hobbies, etc.)?
Please send me e-mail reminders as deadlines approach, and feel free to chat with me about other ways you can make the letter writing process go as smoothly as possible for you and your letter writers.

And of course, Good luck!
About your rights to access to letters written on your behalf:

In the recommendation forms you turn in online, please look for and check the box that says I waive my right to read this letter,

The reason for this is that the people reading your application will take letters to be more objective if you check this box, so it will help your application. If you want to see a letter written on your behalf, sometimes just asking the recommenders will work, and at other times, you just will not see them. However, if you do waive your right, the letters are taken to be a bit more objective and thus are more believeable and effective.

If this is an issue for you, please do let me know and we can talk about it.