The purpose of this page is to provide information for those requesting letters of recommendation, not necessarily from me.
There are many other sources of information; the webpages of Mike Orrison and Ravi Vakil have been particularly helpful.
As Ravi mentions, and at the risk of stating a tautology, it is in your interest to make your letter writer's job as easy as possible. So providing sufficient and timely information is in your self interest. This document aims to clarify what is sufficient and what is timely.
As I describe below, writing letters is an extremely important activity for me, and hence it is very time consuming. Also, I am asked to write many letters each year -- in 2008 this number was 21, and that is just slightly above my average. These letters accompany applications to graduate school, summer research programs, postdoctoral positions, and a small number more senior positions.


The moduli space of mathematical talent is neither connected, equidimensional nor (well) ordered; I hold this as a central belief. However mathematics departments (for example) are not infinite, so who should be admitted to the graduate program, offered a fellowship or given tenure?
These decisions must not be made solely on the basis of ranked discrete data, such as class placement, test scores, grades or number of papers per year. For this reason, I regard writing letters of recommendation as one of my most important professional responsibilities.


TIMING: You should request to be recommended at least one month in advance. If I agree to write a letter on your behalf, you should provide the following information and materials at least three weeks in advance of your application due date. If I receive your request or information late, you should expect your letter to be late.
Please send me a single email answering the following questions and attaching the following materials, or providing links where available. Not all of this applies to you.
  1. What is your name (so that I don't use Sue for Suzanne or vice-versa)?
  2. For undergraduates, what is your year and major?
  3. How long have I known you (years and months), and (for students) what is my relationship to you (instructor, research adviser, etc.)?
  4. For undergraduates, what classes have you taken with me, what grade did you earn, and how did you distinguish yourself in my classes? (If you did not earn a grade you like or did not distinguish yourself in any way in my class, you will likely want to ask another for a recommendation.)
  5. For HMC students, have you graded or tutored for me? If so, for what classes and when?
  6. What are you applying for and what is the corresponding due date? (A two-column list works well here.)
  7. For undergraduates applying to special (e.g. summer) programs or fellowships, what are they looking for in candidates (e.g. students with lots of programming background) and what are the specific letter writer instructions (e.g. answer these questions and mail your application to...)? A link to the program announcement should be sufficient.
  8. What would you like me to address? How would you describe yourself? What are your strengths? Important accomplishments? Favorite theorems or papers?
  9. Who else is writing letters for you? (So I can provide information which may not otherwise be covered.)
  10. For students, what are your long term goals? How will this position/award help you attain that goal?
  11. What are your extracurricular interests and passions?
  12. Is there anything else you can think of that might help me?
MATERIALS: In the same email as above, please send me links to, or attach the following
  1. your CV/resume
  2. for students, your unofficial transcripts
  3. if applicable, all necessary forms for letter writers (don't count on me to go through each website to determine what forms I need to complete)
  4. preprints or reprints I should pay special attention to
  5. all materials you will submit with your application (e.g. personal essay, statement of interest, research summary or proposal,...)