Getting Great Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are an important component of your scholarship or fellowship application. These tips will help you get great letters.
Whom do you ask?
- Check the criteria first. Do they require writers have the title of professor? Do they want an advisor, a community member, or a work supervisor?
- Think about who knows you best. Fellowships committees would rather get a detailed letter from someone they don’t know than a generic letter from a VIP.
When do you ask?
Early! Aim to give recommenders at least one month before the deadline. Less than two weeks is a risky bet.
How do you ask?
- Ask politely, ideally in person. Make an appointment. Ask in your own words: “Would you be able to provide a strong letter for me?”
- Provide information:
- Tell the writer why you are asking them.
- Did an aspect of the course inspire you to choose your major? Does the scholarship relate to a project you worked on for the course?
- Create a bulleted list with details on how you know the writer: When did you meet? What courses did you take? How else did you interact?
- Give them a copy of your resume or CV and, potentially, essay drafts or a copy of your student academic summary.
- If you’re applying for multiple awards or programs, give them a full list including deadlines and submission details.
- You should waive your right to read the letters. Confidential letters are preferred, and in some cases required, by fellowship foundations.
- Send a polite reminder and thank you a week before the deadline.
- Follow up later thanking them and letting them know the results!
Notice: Remember, letter writers need to submit letters via the KU campus online letter of recommendation form, so provide this to your writers via email as a follow-up to your conversation.
Common Concerns and Questions
Writing recommendations is part of a professor’s job, and following these tips will help professors write an effective letter.
- You can always email the Office of Fellowships at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or for guidance on choosing and preparing recommenders.
- You should never draft your own letter. Providing the information above helps prepare the writers to do the job themselves.