The best recommendation writers provide expert support for your proposal and direct knowledge of your relevant background. Letters are most useful when they include specific comments on the strength of your preparation and potential. Recommenders should be able to comment on your ability to carry out the proposed course of study and the suitability of the university or program chosen. If you have any questions about how to select your referees, please see a Fellowship advisor.
Choose people who know you well – both in and out of the classroom, and personally. Short references from “well-known folks” don’t go over too well. Likewise, academic letters from high school references are not recommended without discussion with a fellowship advisor.
Any student writing an honors thesis should request a letter of recommendation from their thesis advisor who is most often in the best position to comment on a student’s academic abilities and potential. Non-academic letters should highlight your leadership qualities and service contributions.
Identify your recommenders and meet with them as early in the process as possible. Discuss the specifics of the fellowship to which you are applying: timeline, expectations, and opportunities with regard to the scholarship(s). If your recommenders are familiar with your plans and the application process, they will be much more helpful when offering constructive feedback.
To make the most of your meetings with recommendation writers, be sure to bring:
- Copy of transcript
- A current resume
- Draft essay(s) and application
- Background information on scholarships
- Properly addressed, stamped envelopes, if paper submission is required, along with all necessary information as to date references are due
- A copy of work you did for them (essays, projects, anything to help remind them of your excellent work)
Follow-up with recommenders and keep them up to date with your progress. Confirm that they have completed and submitted your recommendations prior to the deadline.