Faculty Guide to Letters of Recommendation

Thank you for agreeing to write a letter of recommendation. Letters are essential to an application because they supply review committees with information and details that the application form, and even the student, cannot.

NOTE: If you do not feel that you can write a strongly supportive letter of recommendation, please tell the student. This will be kinder to you both. You will not waste your time, and the student will be able to find a recommender who can fully endorse him or her.

Basic Outline for a Letter of Recommendation

Inside Address

  • If no information is given, please use “Dear Scholarship Selection Committee” or “Dear (insert scholarship name) Selection Committee.”

Background of how you know the applicant

  • What is your relationship to the applicant?
  • How long have you known the applicant?
  • How well do you know the applicant?
  • In what capacity have you known the applicant?

Description of the applicant’s accomplishments

  • What are the applicant’s academic achievements, and how have you observed these first-hand?
  • How do the student’s grades, test scores, research, and writing illustrate achievement? Are there some exceptional examples you can share?
  • What honors, scholarships or awards has the applicant received?

Description of the applicant’s service and leadership accomplishments

  • In what extracurricular activities is the applicant involved?
  • How has the applicant demonstrated commitment to the community?
  • How has the applicant demonstrated leadership qualities?

Closing statement and summary of applicant’s potential

  • Has the applicant lived up to his or her potential?
  • If not, what evidence can you provide to demonstrate that he or she will?

Complimentary Closing (Yours truly, etc.)
Signature Space
Name and Title

  • Your title should show why your recommendation has credibility (Professor of…, etc.).

Further Resources for Letters of Recommendation

Resources from NSFP

Scholarship Information

We have concise descriptions of scholarships as well as links to official websites.
Information & Feedback
The student should provide you with information about formatting and submission. We can also review letters of recommendation if you would like feedback or have questions or concerns.


  • Letter of recommendation handouts are available online here .
  • How to Choose and Approach Someone to Ask for a Letter of Reference
  • An Effective Recommendation…
  • Recommendation Letter Formatting and Length
  • Various packets specific to scholarships (i.e. Marshall, Rhodes, Fulbright)

*These are taken from Joe Schall’s “Writing Recommendation Letters” and are only available in photocopied format.

  • Fulbright
  • Gates-Cambridge
  • George J. Mitchell
  • Goldwater
  • Jack Kent Cooke
  • Marshall
  • Morris K. Udall
  • National Science Foundation
  • Rhodes
  • Truman