Below is general guidance for both recommenders and applicants. 

If you have specific questions about a fellowship, please contact Dean Lisa Gates at

For Recommenders

  • Letters should be written by those who know the applicant well, have supervised them in a relevant setting (academic, workplace, volunteer), and can speak knowledgeably about the applicant in ways that are relevant to the specific fellowship. If a recommender is in a position to discuss multiple relevant aspects of a candidate, s/he should do so.

  • Recommenders ideally have had recent contact with the student. It is often optimal to have known the candidate over a longer span of time and through multiple points of contact, but that is not always the case.

  • Try to keep letters to two pages.

  • The candidate should share with you information about the fellowship, including the selection criteria; a current resume and transcript; and if possible a draft of his or her essays—not for feedback per se, but in order for you to understand their purpose and motivation in applying for the fellowship. (Note that the Rhodes and Mitchell scholarships do not permit any feedback on essays by the applicant.)

  • Candidates should provide you with clear instructions about deadlines and delivery mode for letters. Many are uploaded into online application systems, some are delivered to the fellowship advisor and a handful still ask for hard copies to be mailed in. Some require signed letters on institutional letterhead; some are flexible on that point. Still others may require you to complete an online form with questions.

  • Letters that place the applicant in the context of the institution and other undergraduates you have worked with are very helpful. Providing specific examples of the nominee’s strengths and achievements; placing the nominee in the context of other students you have worked with; speaking to the merits of the nominee’s proposed course of study or project; commenting on the nominee’s goals, their importance and the nominee’s preparation and abilities are all helpful to the selection committee. It is also helpful for you to detail how you know the applicant, in what capacity and over what expanse of time.

  • Please make sure you include the correct fellowship name for each letter. When students apply for multiple opportunities, this can be an issue.

For Applicants

Make sure you talk with your recommenders well in advance of the deadline; 3-4 weeks advance notice is courteous. Read through the notes above as well and make sure you provide the recommender with the materials and information needed to write a strong letter of recommendation.