Letters of Recommendation

Timeline & How To

  1. Brainstorm a list of potential recommenders with your academic advisor or fellowships advisor.
    • Choose someone that you have developed a strong relationship with.
    • Recommenders should be individuals who can confidently describe your academic, professional, and/or personal strengths, accomplishments, and growth potential.
    • Letters of recommendation should both complement and strengthen your application.
  2. Ask your recommenders with plenty of time to spare (AT LEAST 4 weeks ahead of time). Sample email template here.
    • Be courteous and prepared when you approach a possible recommender for a letter.
    • Share your interest in pursuing a given award opportunity.
    • Ask your potential recommender these questions:
      • Do you have time amidst your other responsibilities to write a letter of recommendation that will complement my other application materials?
      • Do you feel that you know me well enough to be able to provide an account of my personal and academic strengths?
  3. If they say no to the above questions, graciously thank them for their time and approach another professor, research mentor, lab supervisor, internship coordinator/supervisor/boss, etc.
  4. If they say yes to the above questions:
    • Assemble a dossier of application materials to share with recommenders (resume, personal statement, etc.).
    • Make a list (for example, if your recommender is a professor, list all the classes you took with them) for their convenience as they write.
    • Share a one-page summary of the fellowship (the funding organization, their target audience, award criteria and mission priorities, fellowship benefits, and campus and national award deadlines) and briefly outline your fit for the opportunity. 
    • Encourage your recommenders to work with the Fellowships Office as they compose their letters; the Fellowships Office is happy to provide feedback on letters in draft.
    • Give recommenders ample time to write. Writing strong and meaningful letters takes quite a bit of time. Be mindful of your recommenders’ other responsibilities and of times in the term that are busier.
    • Offer to provide any additional information they may request.
    • One week before your deadline if your recommender has not indicated that they have completed their letter, gently remind them of when it is due.
  5. After the letter is submitted along with your application, thank your recommenders and acknowledge the time that they took out of their busy schedule to help you with this endeavor.