Letters of Recommendation

Letters of Recommendation are a critical piece of any national fellowship application.  Staff at ONSF are always happy to review letters of recommendation at any stage of development and at any point in the process and to provide guidance on how to craft a letter that accurately reflects the specific criteria for each competition. Effective letters are personal, detailed, and chock full of examples that illustrate the way(s) in which the applicant meets – and exceeds – the award criteria.

We encourage all faculty who have agreed to write a letter of recommendation for a student applying for a national award to begin by seeking out the type of scholarship-specific advice found here on what various national fellowships are looking for in their letters.  This resource provides information on the Fulbright, Gates Cambridge, Goldwater, Marshall, Mitchell, NSF-GRFP, Rhodes, Truman, and Udall.

There are also a number of helpful general resources on writing recommendation letters for students available online.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute provides some detailed guidance for writing letters in scientific fields, aimed primarily at new faculty and others who haven’t written a lot of letters of recommendation in the past.  And Kong, Steele, and Botham’s “Ten Simple Rules for Writing Compelling Recommendation Letters” (2021) does a great job of mapping out a process that can save time and improve the quality of the letters we write.

Finally, ONSF has partnered with the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) and the Office for Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) to offer a recurring workshop on Writing Letters of Recommendation. You can find a link to the workshop, and other useful information, below:

Refer a Student

ONSF relies heavily on referrals from faculty and staff to identify students who might be a good fit for a nationally competitive scholarship or fellowship.  We welcome referrals at any time.  There is no need to have a specific fellowship in mind.

Email ONSF Director Vin Moscardelli with a brief message about the student you are referring, and feel free to copy the student. We find it works best to draw students into the exchange from the beginning.