Gizem Karaali'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.
Writing a letter...

First off, do you really want ME to write a letter for you? It is in general useful to consider the following before you ask someone for a letter:

1. Does this person have a reason to have a positive impression of you? (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?)

2. Is the person familiar with you and your work? (In my case, for instance, this may translate into: Did you and I have extensive conversations during office hours or elsewhere? Do I know of your mathematical community building activities? Do I know what your senior thesis / REU project was about, or given a good summary, can I say anything intelligent about it? In short can I say something more than "This student took a class with me and did well"?)

3. Is this letter going to be relevant to your application? (In my case, for instance, this may translate into: Does having a letter from your mathematics instructor help you with your application for a congressional internship in Washington DC? Does a letter from me count for your application to get a part time job at the Natural History museum? Note that your answer to these questions may be yes or no depending on what you want the letter to be about).

If you have already decided that you want a letter from me, please feel free to email me and make an appointment to chat about it.

If I have agreed to write a recommendation for you, please give me a folder containing Or since now we live in the twenty-first century, you can simply email me the first three documents, or links to them, and the addressed envelopes will handle themselves.

About your rights to access to letters written on your behalf:

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

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.

Furthermore, at least two weeks before the first letter is due, e-mail 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!

This page was largely inspired by Mike Orrison's page here and his article here.

Contact Information

Office: 2333 Millikan Lab
e-mail: Gizem dot Karaali at pomona dot edu