Writing Letters of Recommendation

While it’s widely known that letters of recommendation are commonplace in higher education, strong letters are especially crucial for success in national scholarships and fellowships competitions. If a student has asked you for a letter of recommendation for an award, they are doing so because they respect you, feel that you have had a significant impact on their lives, and believe you can speak to their skills and personal and professional goals.

We believe there is value in having all applicants personally ask you if you will write a letter for them. We advise them to have a conversation with you about the award they are applying to and to be willing to provide you with supplemental information that will help you in the letter writing process – such as a resume, information about the award, and an overview of their application responses.

For many of our competitions, the foundations are seeking specific information from the letters of recommentation. To help with this, one of our fellowship advisors will send faculty/letter writers a detailed email providing guidance for the particular award your student is applying to. If you have further questions, the Office of Competitive Fellowships is always happy to provide advice and guidance to faculty writing letters of recommendation.

Broadly, the following advice holds true for most national scholarships and fellowships:

What helps

What hurts

When to say no

In some cases, declining to write a letter might be the best thing to do. Saying ’no’ to a student for a valid reason is preferable to writing a less-than-helpful letter of recommendation.  Feel free to decline…