In case you may be thinking of asking me, or other similarly busy letter writers, for a recommendation or reference, here are a few tips and guidelines to help the process go smoothly.

Deadlines: Please make your request early, at least four weeks in advance, and be prepared to provide all supporting materials 2 weeks before your first deadline. If you need a letter on short notice, it will be better to ask someone else.

Materials and instructions: Send your essential application materials (which might include cv, transcript, essay, research statement, relevant publications, etc.) in a single email with pdf attachments. In the same email, list all of the places you are applying, and provide relevant practical details such as clear submission instructions for places that require letters to be sent by email or uploaded from a special webpage. It is generally helpful to know who else is writing for you and if there is anything particular that you wish me to address that the other letters might not cover.

Automated emails and webforms: Many applications (including those for most graduate schools) will generate automatic emails requesting recommendations. Plan ahead to generate these automatic requests all on the same day, and send an email to let me know when the whole batch is done. Kindly fill out all relevant contact details on the web forms. When in doubt, it is okay to use the address and phone number for the main office on the department home page.

Reminders: If a deadline is one week away or less and the letter has not been submitted, please send a gentle reminder.

Good luck! Applying is usually stressful, and there is always some randomness in the process. I wish you success. Remember that if you plan ahead and prepare, you can improve your odds. If you make things easy for your letter writers, they will have more time and energy to put into writing strong letters.