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Recommendation Letters

Most scholarship applications require letters of recommendation.  Some require as many as six letters, while many require either two or three. 

When the time comes to solicit letters of recommendation, choose professors who know you and your work.  Ideally, each reference should communicate something distinct about your academic career.  In selecting recommenders, aim for variety.  For instance, you may choose someone who knows your work within your major, such as your advisor. Secondly you may choose someone with whom you've worked over the summer, an internship supervisor. Finally, select someone who could comment on a personal level, such as a faculty family in an international program.  Provide your references with ample information about the fellowship(s) and your qualifications.  Also keep in mind the following tips, summarized from Writing Personal Statements and Scholarship Application Essays (Joe Schall, 2006).

 Your recommenders will expect that you:

  • Allow for plenty of time (4-6 weeks). 
  • Communicate clearly about the application protocol, including information on where, how, and when to send the letter.  You may want to give the recommender a copy of the instructions on the application.
  • Waive rights to see the letter.  Many scholarships will require such a waiver.   Some references may still opt to share what they wrote with you.
  • Follow-up and keep them informed about the application process and results.