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The Office of External Scholarships

Letters of Recommendation

A letter of recommendation may come from a UK faculty or staff member, community leaders or employer.  Prior to requesting a letter, carefully consider the criteria emphasized by the scholarship for which you intend to apply.

When considering the person(s) who will be asked to write a letter of recommendation, you should contemplate both the length of the relationship and the depth.  In general, it is important to ask faculty members and other supervisors who know you, and your work, very well. This requires that you invest time in developing and maintaining a professional relationship with professors that serve as your instructors, advisors, and research mentors.  A faculty member who had you in one class a year ago may not have enough information to write a strong letter, unless you occasionally visit during their office hours and bring them up-to-date on your academic progress and plans.

Whenever possible, request letters of recommendation well in advance of the due date.  The person you select as recommenders are likely to be very busy people so a lead time of a couple of months is not excessive.  Unless it is impossible, make the request in person, and select a time that will allow you to fully explain the scholarship and your reasons for applying.  It is not advisable to make the request at a time when the faculty member is likely to be rushed and distracted (e.g., as in just before class begins). Try to meet faculty members during their office hours or make an appointment to discuss the possibility of their writing recommendation letters for you.

Provide recommenders with information about the scholarship you are pursuing, a draft of your application (when possible), a copy of your curriculum vitae (c.v.) or resume, and information about why you are applying for the award. If you took a class with the professor some time ago, providing a copy of a paper or project completed in the class may be helpful. It is helpful to speak to potential recommenders about the types of information they might include in their letters. For instance, you might ask that the writer mention your participation in class as well as your performance on assignments, or to mention your activities outside the classroom, so long as the writer feels comfortable making those observations and evaluations.  For most scholarships, it is also critical that the recommender address your future potential or career aspirations and how you will benefit from the scholarship award.

It is absolutely necessary that you give your recommenders the essential information about the letter's destination and due date.  Any of the following may be needed: To whom should the letter be addressed? To which address should it be sent? Will they need to provide an electronic copy as well as a signed hard copy? What is the deadline for the letter? Does the letter need to be submitted first to the campus review committee?  If there is a form or coversheet that accompanies the letter, be sure to provide it, with your identifying information included.

Joe Schall's article "References Available upon Request" is particularly helpful when considering requesting letters of recommendation. Click here to access that article.

Thanking Recommenders

Write a thank-you note to each recommender within two weeks of his or her providing the letter. Handwritten notes are strongly recommended. When the scholarship results have been announced, follow up with your recommenders and provide them with the information about your status in the competition: nominee, finalist, alternate, non-selected, recipient, etc.  Your recommenders are investing their valuable time in writing letters of support for your application, and they want to know what happens!

Forms of Address

When writing to any person you do not know well, use a fairly formal salutation. This includes recommenders, chairs of nominating committees, and representatives from scholarship foundations. "Hey," "Hi," and no greeting at all are NOT recommended.

Here are some recommended forms:

Dear Dr. Smith:
Dear Professor Smith:
Dear Ms. Anderson:
Dear Mr. Anderson:
Dear Ms. Smith:

I am delighted to have been selected as a finalist.

Thank you for this news and the invitation to the finalist interview. I will look forward to the meeting scheduled for February 10 in Cincinnati. I plan to attend the pre-interview dinner on the 9th as well.

Sincerely, Jane S. Applicant

Status Updates

Be sure to let the Office of External Scholarships (OES) know the results of the competition at each step. In many cases, after OES submits application materials on your behalf, foundations and sponsoring agencies communicate only with the applicant. OES cares about your progress in the competition very much, and appreciates hearing the news directly from you. Additionally, OES will help you prepare for finalist-round interviews, in the event that applies, so having that status information quickly will allow OES to help you get ready.