Reference letters for undergraduates

1. Policies

2. What you need to do

If I write a reference letter for you, it is easier for me to write a strong letter if I feel like I know something about who you are. It is also easier for me to stay organized and make sure I meet all deadlines if I have all the relevant information in one place. Therefore,

3. About MAT357, Winter 2017

Here is how to translate your course mark in MAT357, Winter 2017, into a class rank:
The class started with about 70 students and finishd with 47 students.
Top marks were: 97, 95, 95, 94, 91, 90, 88, 88, 87, 87, 86, 83, 82, 81, 80, 77, 77, 77, 75, 75, 74, 74, 74,... For what it's worth, I felt that the vast majority of the people who completed the course (not limited to the top half) consisted of good students who learned a lot of real analysis.

4. A few aditional remarks

[*] The reason I do this is that, in submitting recommendations, faculty members are typically asked to check boxes on an online form, indicating whether the student is in the
top 2%
top 5%
top 10%
top 20%
top 50%
by various criteria, such as research potential, communication skills, etc. I am told that more or less everyone lies all the time in doing this, so that if a student is in the top 15% of MAT357 (very good!) and I therefore click "top 20%" in all the boxes, then the student will be rejected by all grad programs. So my policy is to allow myself a little dishonesty in clicking these boxes -- what I judge to be the standard level of dishonesty, so that adjusted for universal exaggeration, it will give an accurate impression of the student's abilities -- but, because I don't like to lie, I also give honest figures in the letter, where I can put them in context.