Guidelines for Letter of Recommendation Writers
Students requesting a letter of recommendation for a competitive national scholarship should meet with you in person four to six weeks before the deadline. Since writing a supportive letter will require an investment of your time and effort, please assess if you are willing and able to write a letter on the student’s behalf.
It is okay to decline the request, but please let the student know as soon as possible. DO NOT agree if:
- You are not in strong positive support of the student.
- You do not know the student well enough or do not remember enough to provide a good letter.
- You feel you are not the right person to recommend him/her for the fellowship.
- You do not have the time to write it.
If you agree to write a letter please make sure that your letter:
- Is on official letterhead from your institution (college, school, organization). Note: some online applications require you to upload a scanned pdf of your letter. Others ask you to enter a letter as text into a text box. Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship applications require you to fill out a form.
- Has a handwritten signature in blue or black ink.
- Is addressed to the specific award committee (eg. “To the Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee”) and makes specific mention of the award (please submit separate letters for each award).
Tips for STRONG fellowship letters:
- Length: 1.5-2 pages, single-spaced.
- Provides context in which you know applicant and for what length of time.
- Compares applicant’s performance to larger context of your experiences with students.
- Addresses student’s academic performance and/or extracurricular engagements in detail and with examples. It makes a stronger impression when the committee can gain insight from your personal knowledge, beyond what the student provides in his/her application materials.
- Is candid, but not negative. Committee is looking for a realistic assessment.
- Follows criteria of specific fellowship (see links below). Don’t feel the need to touch upon all criteria; it is best to speak on points from your own experience with the student and his/her work.
Please AVOID writing these types of letters:
- Mere summary of application.
- Too short, vague, not specific.
- Description of courses or activities without comments on student’s performance.
- Generic, written for other purposes. • Evaluation of student as mediocre, average or with too many negative comments.
- Similar template for multiple students.
Your letter may be submitted in the following ways.
Submit letter only after student has been designated as an institutional nominee (for Mitchell, Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater). Please make sure that the letter itself is addressed to the appropriate fellowship selection committee.
- Hard copy mailed to: Office of National Scholarship Advisement, P.O. Box 1848, 60 Sorority Row, University, MS 38677-1848, U.S.A.
- Hard copy via student applicant: please make sure letter is sealed in an envelope with a signature across the seal.
- Email attachment: to email@example.com, subject line: Letter of Recommendation for Student Name
- Upload letter via scholarship application link. (Marshall Scholarship, Rhodes Scholarship, Mitchell Scholarship, Fulbright Scholarship)
- Online form via scholarship application link (Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship)
Please feel free to contact ONSA Director, Tim Dolan at firstname.lastname@example.org (662)915-1798 with any questions.
Links to recommender guides and criteria: