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Letter of Interest for an REU program?

  1. Jan 3, 2010 #1
    Hi all,

    I am in the process of applying for a few REU programs for this upcoming summer. Right now i am facing difficulties compiling the letter of interest. So, i thought someone here, who has enough experience, might point me to the right direction in terms of what are some of the most important things to be included and what would make no difference. In other words, how should i start writting it? By saying what things first and save what for later? Where should i focus more, what points need to be more elaborated and others slightly touched upon?

    I understand these are a lot of questions, but i would really appreciate if you could be of any help.

    Thanks a lot in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 4, 2010 #2
    It's a cover letter/personal statement, and they've all got the same basic structure:

    Interest - Why you're interested in whatever field the REU is in
    Experience - Are you competent?
    Personalize - What makes you a good fit for this lab?

    Sell it with details:
    bad - I really want to work in your research lab in computer science 'cause I've always liked video games.
    better - Video game NPC's have always fascinated me, so I started doing some research on AI simulations of people. I found a lot of the research dry, but your work on emotionally realistic bots really stood out for taking it to the next level.

    bad - Take me 'cause I'm really intelligent, hardworking, and cute.
    better - In my design class we had this problem with race conditions in our databases. Having never taken a database course and being the one responsible for the db portion of our assignment, I taught myself about concurrency situations in db's so that I could fix the solution by making use of the locks in the api.

    Keep it to under a page unless someone asks for longer. Preferably the shorter the better:
    hello prof X,
    I'm really interested in doing an REU with you on work X, because Y. I think I can keep up with your work because I've taken courses a,b,c. I've done project j, and used skills k,l,m. P is why I'm a good fit for your lab. Thank you for your time.
  4. Jan 4, 2010 #3
    Thanks Story645, your input has no doub been helpful, and i will take into account many of your suggestions.

    There is one more thing i would like to ask you, and would be glad if you, or someone else would take the time to advise me. Your suggestions under "Interest" are basically if i defenitely am sure for what project to apply for. However, almost all REU's, as you know, have more than one project you can apply for. In some casses, there are more than one that would be perfectly fine for me...and they allow the possibility to apply for more than one at the same time, or as undecided(no preference). So, my question is, is it better to give some more thought as for what topic specifically i want to apply for, or applying as undecided would sound/look cheap? I really wouldn't mind at all taking my time and applying specifically for the one i am most interested in, but being an international student my chances are already very limited, so doing so would incredibly limit my options even more. This is the only reason why i hesitate to apply for one project rather than for a few or all an REU offers.

    THanks again!

    P.s. Maybe it doesn't make a difference, but i am applying for REU's in Math!
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2010
  5. Jan 4, 2010 #4
    It's fine to apply as undecided, just justify the choice. Basically your interest statement would be something like "Having become really interested in math because of X, I still don't know what I want to specialize in." Go into detail about whichever fields really look appealing, but state that you'd be happy with anything.
  6. Jan 4, 2010 #5
    Thanks again! You've been helpful!
  7. Jan 7, 2010 #6
    When I was applying to math REUs last year, I got the impression that most professors chose their own group from the applicant pool who indicated that project as their first choice. Undecided applications were assigned to a random professor. From the perspective of a professor who is trying to build his own group, your application might be more convincing if you express an interest in his project specifically. Just a thought.
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