Advice for Recommenders

Your letter for this competition may well make the difference between your student being selected for a scholarship or not. The committee may not have anyone on board with expertise in the student's subject area, so we count on you to provide context for the student's project: tell us how this project will complement the literature on the subject and contribute to the discussion of the issues the student proposes to explore.

Like a recommendation for graduate school or other competitive scholarship programs, an effective letter for the presidential scholarship will:

  • State how long, and in what capacity you've known the candidate.
  • Describe the candidate's personality and work ethic, using concrete examples that demonstrate a strong relationship.
  • Be vivid and specific, including personal memories of the candidate, suggestive anecdotes, something to indicate that you know this candidate very well and think highly of him or her. Letters that are most helpful to selection committees bring the candidate to life on the page.
  • Describe and evaluate in detail the student's scholarly work, especially a major research project. The letter should help the selection committee understand the significance of this research, the contribution it has made, and include examples of the student's ability to make future contributions as a scientist, policy maker, environmentalist, etc.
  • Address the scholarship criteria specifically in ways that demonstrate your abundant confidence in the student and your knowledge of the candidate beyond grades and classroom performance.
  • Comment on the likelihood that the candidate will prosper in graduate school.

For more information on writing letters of recommendation for specific scholarships, consult Writing Recommendation Letters, by Joe Schall, on file in the Office of Student Academic Grants and Awards.

Willamette University

Student Academic Grants and Awards

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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