How to Apply

Recommendation Letter: Student Guidelines

Selecting referees

Choose professors who know your work well:

  • Faculty with whom you have taken several classes and/or small classes that have given them an opportunity to get to know you and your work
  • Faculty who have supervised an independent research project or enlisted you to assist with their own research
  • Your honors or thesis advisor

Choose professors whose work is relevant to the program, fellowship, or grant to which you are applying.

If appropriate (based on the criteria of the fellowship), choose one professor outside your major, a professor at another university with whom you have taken a class, or someone who has supervised your work as an intern, research assistant, or employee.

Choose one professor who knows something about you as a person – your extra-curricular activities on campus, service work in the community, engagement in public affairs, etc.


Always ask your professors if they are willing to write for you.

Make sure to give your referees adequate time to write your letters (at least three weeks).

Let your referees know the outcome of your application and thank them for their help.

Assisting the writer

Provide a cover letter in which you explain:

  • what you are applying for (attach information about the fellowship, if possible) and the address for the scholarship's website
  • when the letter must be sent (this may be a campus deadline or the final deadline posted by the scholarship) If necessary, point out whether the date is for postmark or receipt of the letter.
  • where the letter should be sent – the Fellowships Office or the Foundation – and provide the correct mailing address
  • what courses you have taken (course titles, dates – semesters and years)

Be sure to include the form on which the recommendation should be sent or, if the letter is to be submitted online, make sure that you have the writer's correct e-mail address. Many online applications now ask for the e-mail address in order to send the recommender directions on how to upload the letter.

If you need to fill in the names and positions of the referees on the form, ask your professors for their precise titles (i.e. instructor, visiting professor, assistant professor, etc.)

Provide a copy of your resume, personal statement, and other essays you will submit as part of your application.

Provide contact information (phone numbers, e-mail address, etc.) so that your referees can reach you if they have any questions.

Provide copies of work that you completed for this professor so that s/he can refer to specific examples when writing your letter.

Offer to meet with the writer if sh/e would like to learn more about the fellowships and/or get to know you better.

Page Updated 02.10.2015