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 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.