SMALL Application FAQ

Greetings. I’m one of the Program Directors for SMALL. We’re glad you’re interested in applying. As many of you have the same questions about the program, I thought it would be helpful to create a list of frequently asked questions and responses. If you have any further question, you can reach me at sjm1 AT

1. Are foreign students eligible for SMALL? Yes, but you must have a visa to work in the U.S.; see Question 2. A student F-1 visa should be sufficient, but you might need to do additional paperwork. Just note on your application what visa you have.

2. Can SMALL help me get a VISA to work in the U.S.? Unfortunately, no. We cannot help you obtain a visa, and if you do not have a work visa you cannot apply. We have over 300 applications for 30 or fewer spaces. We cannot reserve a spot for someone in the hopes that the visa situation will work out, as other students need to know their status because of deadlines for other programs or other summer options.

3. Either I or the person writing my letter of recommendation is outside the U.S.; can we just email you the file? No. We strongly prefer you to snail mail to the stated address. We have over 300 applications coming in, and while we would try to make sure any email attachment is properly printed and filed, we don’t want to be responsible for your application being incomplete. If either you or a letter writer will be outside the U.S., the following procedure has worked well for many people. Contact a secretary or administrative assistant at your home institution. Arrange for whatever parts of your application which come from people outside the U.S. to be sent to them (or, if you want, arrange for everything to be there), and then have them snail mail that to our address. If this is not possible, please email me.

4. I’m in the U.S., but is it okay to just email the application instead of having hard copies sent? No. Please snail mail your application, and arrange to have your letter of recommendation sent to our postal address. As explained immediately above, we want to make sure your entire file makes it and is complete; there are times emails with attachments don’t make it, and we do not want you to mistakenly think your file is complete when it isn’t.

5. I’m graduating this spring; can I still do SMALL? No: SMALL is one of the NSF funded REUs (Research Experiences for Undergraduates); you must be a current undergraduate to do SMALL, and thus once you graduate you are ineligible.

6. Do you need an official transcript for my grades? No. We trust you to correctly tell us your course grades; there is no need to arrange for an official transcript to be sent.

7. Do I need to list non-math classes? No. If you want to list classes in other departments that are close (such as physics or CS, for example), you can do that after listing all your math courses, but it’s not required.

8. Can I exceed the 1-2 page limit for my Statement of Interest? Yes, but it’s not recommended. An important skill is to learn to be concise. You can write 50 pages if you want, but professors may stop reading after the second page (I will). Two pages is plenty of space to summarize what you have done and your interests, and space limitations like this are frequently encountered in academia. Years ago some colleagues emailed me that we had to cut our abstract down to just 50 words. There was a lot we wanted to say but couldn’t; I spent over an hour and was able to get the key points across in the allowed space. You have it easier — you can play a bit with margins and font size if you like (though if you make it too small we won’t be able to read it!).


I hope you found this page useful. If you still have any questions, please email me at sjm1 AT We look forward to reading your application. 


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