SMALL Application FAQ

Greetings. We’re glad you’re interested in applying. As many of you have the same questions about the program, we thought it would be helpful to create a list of frequently asked questions and responses. If you have any further question, you can reach us at [email protected] , but before you email please look at the answers below.

0. What does SMALL stand for? In addition to standing in the presence of royalty and for truth, justice and the American Way, SMALL is an acronym from the names of the founding faculty, Silva, Morgan, Adams, Lenhart, Levine.

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.

3a. Either I or the person writing my letter of recommendation is outside the U.S.; can we just email you the file? YES!  Please go to and go to Williams SMALLREU to apply.

3n. Can anyone write my letter of recommendation? How many can I send? Yes, you can ask anyone you know – what matters most is finding someone who knows you well enough to talk about your ability to thrive and contribute in our program. One letter is enough, if you have two people who can talk about different aspects of you (say classes and research) it is fine to use two, but you really should not need to send more than two letters.

4. I’m in the U.S., but is it okay to just email the application instead of having hard copies sent? YES! We do not do paper applications. Please go to and go to Williams SMALLREU to apply.

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. You can however apply to the Polymath Jr REU: .

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. Please write the course number and the name of the course as well as your grade; for example, Math 271: Real Analysis: A-.

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!).


We hope you found this page useful. If you still have any questions, please email us at [email protected]. We look forward to reading your application.