Recommendation Letter

This page is based on advice from Jason Eisner:

I am often asked to write letters of recommendation for students. It’s my pleasure to assist students interested in continuing their studies or finding new opportunities. This page describes how I provide letters for students.

What’s in the letter

The content of my letter depends on how I know you.

  • Research students. I’ll say as much as I can about the research we did together, describing the technical scope of our project and your specific contributions to it. I will also describe what it is like working with you- your qualities as a researcher. I read and write many letters for graduate programs, so I am very familiar with the content and expectation of these letters. If you worked closely with a graduate student in my group, I’ll solicit feedback from that student.
  • Students in Course. If you took my class, most likely I don’t know you or your work very well. I will provide a standard letter that describes my class to provide context for the reviewer, and the grade you received in my class. These letters do not go into detail beyond that. That’s pretty typical for these types of letters, and reviewers will understand that it is a “this student did well in my class” letter. To be clear, this type of letter isn’t enough to get you into graduate school. However, my assumption is you have someone else who knows you well that will write a strong letter.

What to send me

As a matter of policy, I will only send a letter if it is confidential. Be sure to waive your right to read the letter. This assures the recipient that my recommendation will be honest.

Please give me a month’s notice if possible, so that I can find a block of time to fit this in. It would be useful for you to send me the following materials as soon as convenient. You will need to send me:

  • List of schools for which you need a letter. A Google sheet works best, with the name of the school and the deadline. Practically, I will submit all the letters at once, but it’s helpful to know the earliest due date.
  • Your statement of purpose and CV. This provides me with context that can be helpful in framing my letter. Practically, I don’t need this for the “Students in course” letter, but it doesn’t hurt to share it with me if you have it ready.

Good luck with your applications!