© Robert Siegel
Last updated: February, 2013
Last major revision: August, 2002

Recommendation Notes

To all students requesting a letter of recommendation:

Please provide me with the following information.
Try to be as complete and specific as possible and follow the outline.
Please focus on specific interactions we have had.
Use bullet points whenever possible.
(By supplying as much information as you can, it will help me get the letter out in a timely fashion, and allow me to write a significantly better letter on your behalf.)

Hand me all the materials in a folder with your name, your home and work phone numbers, and the date on the front.
Please supply whatever possible on disk as well.
Put your name and the date on EVERYTHING you hand me.

*** A) Informal letter to me - details listed below.
B) Course dossiers
C) Models, visual aids, presentations, etc
D) Resume, or CV including summary of activities, employment and other vital data (the first page of AMCAS)
E) Copies or abstracts of any published papers you may have written.
F) Some notion of where you are applying.
If you are applying for a special program or fellowship, please provide me with written material concerning its nature and/or eligibility criteria.
G) Personal statement (the second page of the AMCAS application)
[Please indicate whether or not that I may show your statement to other students in the future. If no indication is made, I will assume it is O.K.]
H) Grades and/or test scores if they are especially good, if they show they range of classes you have taken, etc.
Details regarding informal letter (Please be as specific as possible.) General
1) When did we first meet? (Be very specific. Include date and circumstances.)
2) A list of every other notable interactions that we have had.
(Assume I have forgotten everything, which is not very far from the truth.)
coffee about nothing (how many times?) brown bags, office hours, email, etc specific conversations???
3) What is/was your major? If HB what is your area of concentration?
4) Who is/was your advisor?
5) What year did you graduate?
6) Which course(s) did you take and what year?
7) Did you go to Public Health Night?
8) Did you go to the Bay Area International Health Conference?
9) Did you go to any recommended lectures, seminars, or conferences?
10) What did you do for your internship?
Course notes
11) List all the courses you took from me
12) For each course, what were your particular areas of interest? List at least 3. Be very specific.
13) Did you go to section regularly and who was your T.A.?
14)Specific courses

+ Humans and Viruses,
how much extra credit did you do?
Describe your viral model in detail. Bring your write up and PowerPoint presentation and model if possible.
Describe your viral web page in detail.
With whom did you work on the required problems?
What topics or themes in virology did you find to be of greatest interest?
Did you go to any of the optional lectures or laboratory demonstrations (esp diagnostic virology or EM)?
+ The Vaccine Revolution,
tell me about your exact paper topic.
List the specific topics of all your oral presentations topics.
**Be sure to include the on page write ups of your talks with Paper Title, and Author, and Journal (one disk if possible).
+ The Impact of AIDS,
What was your social involvement project (in detail, including what you got out of it)?
What was you book chapter? What was you specific contribution? Who did you work with?
What topics or themes concerning HIV did you find to be of greatest interest?
+ Summer Honors College? Describe your experience.
+ The Smallest Predator? Describe your experience.
+ Ode to the Code? Describe your experience.
+ The Chemistry Seminar? Describe your experience.

15) Did you go on a trip with me? Oxford? PNG? Tanzania? Peru? Galapagos?
16) Describe in detail our interactions on the trip.
17) List all activities that pertain to your area of concentration.
18) Is there any personal or professional information that does not appear elsewhere?
19) What would you like me to emphasize in your letter?

Also (if pertinent)
20) Foreign languages spoken? How well?
21) Cross cultural or travel experience?
22) Athletic and musical skills?
23) Delineate which activities are paid and which are voluntary?
24) Anything else I should know that is not found elsewhere in your application?

+ Remember again that the more VERY SPECIFIC information and direction you give me, the better will be the letter that I can write. Be sure to include any activities that demonstrate leadership, creativity, empathy, clinical experience, laboratory skills, etc. Include lots of specific details about your lab experiences, including techniques and the names of advisors.

+ When your materials are completed I will schedule a three hour meeting with you during which I will write the letter. Your materials will not be carefully read until that time. Our conversation will be somewhat intermittent so feel free to bring some reading or work to do. Please come prepared.

+ N.B. - In terms of when letters will be written, TAs and students who have taken multiple classes from me will receive first priority. Secondarily, letters will be written on a modified first-come-first-serve basis dating from when I receive your materials. I will commit myself to no more than one letter per week. Given my teaching and work schedule, travel plans, and the number of letters to which I have already committed myself, I am currently scheduling letters for August, 2013.

+ The long time frame is regrettable but necessary. I have not mastered the art of "the quick letter", so unless you are a former teaching assistant, do not rely on the possibility that I can slide you in front of people who are already scheduled.

+ Letters will be largely limited to those students who can meet with me in person.

+ Students requesting letters should have scored within the top 20% of the class or should have otherwise distinguished themselves in some very specific way.

+ Feel free to offer bullet points with short pertinent phrases - this may help to insure that important aspects of your background get proper coverage.

+ Please bring your materials with you when you come for your recommendation meeting / letter writing session.

+ Send any specific questions to me by email - siegelr@stanford.edu.

If your letter is going to the Career Development Center (CDC), do NOT include a stamped envelope.
(Usually students walk their sealed letters over.)
I have copies of the CDC form. I prefer to use these (since I have my part already filled out.)

Addenda :

1) If you would like me to read your statement of purpose, I would be happy to do that depending on my schedule. Keep in mind that I will try to write excoriating comments. Do NOT take them as a personal attack but rather as a sincerely attempt to refine your letter. I will not be offended if you choose to ignore my comments. In general you should try to get as much advice aspossible.

2) I can provide examples of other students' personal statements. Some are good, some are bad. You must decide for yourself.

3) I have several notes about applying to medical school (and graduate school) that may be of some interest.

With very best wishes,

Robert Siegel

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