Writing Letters of Recommendation

Writing Letters of Recommendation is a timely process and the office encourages applicants to ask for letters at least a month in advance.  For some scholarships with campus evaluations, the office will solicit letters directly.  Below are some useful tips about writing letters of recommendation.

CANDIDATE PREFERENCES:

Most of the scholarships that the office works with are considered "merit-based" generally gives perference for applicants with high academic ability, personal integrity, an ongoing commitment to community service, and the potential to make a significant contribution to their discipline and professional career. The recommender uses the letter to help flesh out their perspective on the merit of the applicant with regards to the scholarship criteria.

SUGGESTIONS WHEN WRITING:

Along with the applicant's scholarship essays the letters of recommendation form the backbone of an application. These are extremely competitive awards; letters of recommendation cannot be pro-forma, general, or form letters.  The evaluation committees will be looking at faculty letters as way of understanding the potential of the applicant as well as learn more context about the candidate's academic journey, commitment to academic or global enagement (or both). Generally, letters will exceed one page.

Strong letters of recommendation will include:

  • A description of your familiarity with the applicant.  Applicants should seek recommendations from individuals who they have had significant contact with.
  • The applicant's achievements.  Application essays are limited in space and letters of recommendation can help flesh out achievements that an applicant could not include or delve into.
  • The applicant's potential with regards to the scholarship criteria.  
  • How the scholarship could help the applicant achieve their long term goals and what (if any) benefit the applicant's proposal will have on the discipline.
  • Why you believe, given the scholarship critieria, the applicant merits consideration from the review committee. 

Try not to rely solely on a summary of the candidate's performance in a class or a cursory review of his or her transcripts and résumé. Rather, seek a balanced, detailed, and honest yet favorable portrait of the candidate from your perspective that addresses the criteria desired by the particular scholarship. Feel free to ask the candidate if there is anything that he or she would like you to mention in your letter.

For further help, consult resources such as Penn State's guide to writing letters of recommendation for premier national and international awards.

WHAT THE CANDIDATE SHOULD PROVIDE:

Ideally, the candidate should provide you with a copy of his or her transcripts, résumé, and program proposal. He or she should also provide you with information about the scholarship. On the following links you'll find some helpful information on what specifically each scholarship is looking for in your letter a recommendation: Fulbright, Boren UndergraduateFulbright Research GrantFulbright ETAGoldwaterrMarshallMitchellTruman, Udall and Rhodes.

FULBRIGHT GRANTS

If your student is applying for a Fulbright grant, please see information tailored specifically to letter of recommendation writers for the Student Fulbright Research Grant or the reference form that needs to be filled out for those students who are applying for the English Teaching Assistantship Fulbright.

DRAFT LETTERS

You may be required to submit a draft letter of recommendation to the Office of Premier Awards for the purposes of the campus interviewing and endorsement committee. However, an official letter eventually will be required. In any case, the campus review committee may ask you to clarify or to correct typological errors prior to submitting your official letter.