Letters of Recommendation

I receive many requests for letters of recommendation, especially in the fall. While I am generally happy to write them, to keep up with the number of requests I've had to devise some general organizational strategies. You, dear student, will get best results if you follow these guidelines.


  • Start early! I require at least two weeks’ notice before the first letter is due.
  • Prepare a dossier (electronic format) containing the following.
    1. Your CV/résumé
    2. Your personal statement(s)/application essay
    3. Places to which you are applying and why you are applying to them
    4. Instructions for sending the letters
    If you wish for me to comment on your grades to date, please provide, in addition, the following.
    1. Your current unoffical transcript (available from StuInfo)
    2. A signed and dated reference release form (either hardcopy or scanned image)
  • Create a folder on a shared drive, e.g., Google Drive. Share this folder with “ude.usm@denworb“. Place your dossier in this folder, and create a spreadsheet within this folder with the columns listed below. As I finish and send the letters for each institution, I'll mark the column “Finished” so you know they've been sent.
  • Send this information to me all at once, rather than drips and drops of a few schools at a time.

Spreadsheet for letters

Institution Program Instructions Address1 Address2 Due Date Finished
e.g., Michigan State University Graduate program, e.g., Astronomy, Physics, Geophysics. Don't list “PhD” or “MS”: if you are applying to a master's program indicate that in the column “Instructions”. Use the name for the degree program as listed by the university. Special instructions, if any; okay to leave blank if the university sends a link via email (most now do this). Address for the letter (up to 5 columns). For electronic letters, usually just giving the institution and department name are sufficient. Leave blank; I'll fill this in when I send the letter.