Guidelines for Recommenders

Thank you for your support of Fordham undergraduate students, graduate students, and recent graduates applying for competitive national scholarships and fellowships. Our students have a long history of receiving a broad range of awards—including Fulbright, NSF GRFP, and Truman, among others—and your support is a critical factor in their success.

While you are an experienced letter writer, a recent meeting of the National Association of Fellowship Advisors emphasized the importance of a well-crafted recommendation letter. It is important that letters be as strong as possible.  

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Tailor the recommendation to the scholarship. Explain how the student has the qualities that the scholarship is looking for. (The student should provide information about the scholarship and we are also happy to assist.) 
  2. Make a central claim at the outset. What in particular makes the student qualified for this scholarship? Show that you know the student well.
  3. Be specific. Give examples about what the student has done, e.g. a research project that stood out and why. Providing anecdotes can be a memorable and effective way to show the student’s characteristics. Specificity helps the reader know that you truly know the student.
  4. Focus on achievements. Steer away from discussions of effort or hard work and personality, as these can distract/disqualify. 
  5. Provide a quantitative assessment. Is the student among the top 5% (or 2% or 1%?) of students you have taught? How long have you been teaching, how many students have you taught, and what is your student population? If you can compare the student to others who have pursued similar paths, that is ideal.
  6. Write 1.5-2 single-spaced pages. Shorter letters will put our students at a disadvantage compared to other candidates.
  7. Format the letter. Write on institutional letterhead, address to chair of fellowship committee, sign, and date.
  8. Feel free to send me a draft. This is appropriate for most applications.

If you feel you cannot write a strong letter for a particular student, please decline so that the student may find someone more appropriate to ask.

We are always happy to answer any questions you may have about your letter and the scholarships. We will also provide feedback on your letter. Please feel free to contact Dr. Lorna Ronald at [email protected] or (718) 817-2773.