Back in July, I published a post proclaiming the start of my fall 2013 graduate school applications process.

Now that it’s the start of October, I can safely say that I’m at a new stage: the point where I need to provide information to all my reference writers about my applications. Don’t neglect this non-trivial step! Letters of recommendations are probably the third most important aspect of one’s application after one’s research experience and grades (in that order), and they become extremely useful in picking out the best of the best.

Here’s what I included in my “packet” of information to my recommenders:

  1. A copy of my updated curriculum vitae. This should be something everyone does.

  2. A document that clearly outlines all of the programs to which I’m applying, as well as any other fellowships and/or scholarships. For me, this is ten Ph.D. programs, four fellowships, and three outside scholarships, and my document ended up being six pages. This includes a LaTeX-generated table of contents and a separate page devoted to an Introduction. For each application, I also included a web link, just in case my reference writers wanted some extra information. Finally, for each school, I also indicated the labs and professors that caught my interest.

I think the last point is something that — sadly — often gets glossed over when sending information to recommenders. It’s not just enough to say that one wants to study at a school; one also should have a general idea of the different research groups at an institution and which ones suit himself or herself the best.

One thing that I had hoped to include in the packet was an updated statement of purpose. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the time to get a sensible essay ready, so that’s the next thing on my agenda to send to my recommenders.

It was a relief to finally send information to my three recommenders, so now I can focus on getting my actual essays and applications. No, I’m not as far as I hoped to be in the plan I posted in July, but I’m getting there. I still have a couple of weeks before the first deadlines arrive…