Preparing Letters

If you have asked me to prepare a letter of reference or recommendation for you, there is information that I need as I write!

Here is the link to the basic set of guidelines in our department:
Guidelines for Letters of Recommendation – Physics v. 12/2017.
The department guidelines overlap with mine in many ways — feel free to check with me for clarification.

You’ll find details below about the information I need, specifically. (If you’ve listed me as a phone reference, please also provide as much of the information below as you can.)

Please send me this information as electronic files. Attach files to an e-mail, rather than typing information in the body of an e-mail. Do NOT send a live linked file from the “cloud”; I need a static version, though of course you can print-to-PDF and send that. Excel or an equivalent spreadsheet file is preferred for any lists; other documents can be PDFs or .docs or equivalent.

I recommend that you label files/lists with a version (_v1.pdf or _date.pdf), so that you can send me updated versions if you decide to apply to more schools or programs.

I need the following information for each program/position:

a) due date for my letter (or likely date range for a phone call);
b) official program/institution/position full title (e.g. “University of Rochester REU Program”, or “Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI)”, or “PhD Program in Applied Physics at California Institute of Technology” or “Data Management Specialist at Epic”);
c) method of submission (i.e. attached by e-mail; or link via e-mail; or through website);
d) website with program/position information;
e) person or committee to whom my letter should be addressed (if there is someone specific);
f) whether the letter/evaluation is strictly confidential (usually there is a process by which you can waive or reserve your right to see it).

I ask for this because I begin my letters with particular reference to the student’s name, the degree and program, and the full school name so the readers know that I’m informed about you and about the program itself. Verifying such info for several schools and for several students takes a surprising amount of time — it’s better for me to spend that time tweaking the wording of my letter to make sure it is correct and compelling.  (If I’m providing information by phone, the last thing you want is for me to get a phone call and not know why the company is calling; you put yourself in a good situation by providing me with details.)

Information about YOU
Please send me the following items:

a) a list of all your previous and upcoming* physics classes (no grades needed; just the course number with the title and term enrolled) and any other relevant courses, too;
b) a draft of your personal statement or cover letter (just one is fine; I don’t need one for each program/job if they are quite similar), or a summary of responses you’ve written to application questions (if the application required this instead of a single statement);
c) a draft of your resume or CV.
*upcoming for any term that will be finished before you start the position (i.e. winter + spring terms for a summer position)

I look over the information in your CV and personal statement and then, in my letter, I can either supplement that with different information or re-emphasize things that the reader might see on your materials but should hear about again.

[most recent update: 11 Jan. 2021 — clarified ‘upcoming terms’]