curf - Center for Undergraduate Research & Fellowships



Letters of Recommendation for Fellowships

See below for details specific to each fellowship. Consult CURF advisors for questions on other fellowship recommendations or questions not addressed here.

Candidates should request recommendations with at least six weeks’ notice and provide all information the recommender will need: deadline, description of degree or research program, draft of application proposal and specific materials such as papers the recommender submitted. The CURF Recommendation Detail form” should be used to organize this information.

Multiple applications

It’s common for applicants to apply for multiple fellowships at the same time – either to several fellowships for similar programs (graduate programs in the UK or US, for example) or for several different pathways (graduate programs and a Fulbright for fieldwork, for example.)

It generally makes sense to have the same recommenders write letters for all applications. For the prestigious fellowships CURF works with, a standard or generic letter, especially through a credentials service, makes a poor impression and is often logistically impossible. Instead, the recommenders can write one basic letter for an applicant applying to similar programs and produce one variant for each application – taking special care to refer correctly to the school and degree program. If the applicant is applying for dissimilar programs, the letters might vary slightly– but the essential points of the recommendation will remain much the same.

Candidates register recommenders with online application sites which will send an automated notice to the recommenders allowing them to log in and upload their letters. In some cases, these automated notices get caught in spam-traps; candidates should remind recommenders to check there. Many online application forms also include a space to list recommenders information; candidates should not confuse this with registration.

Academic vs non-academic

An “academic” letter of recommendation comes from someone who has supervised the candidate in coursework or graded research. All other letters are “personal” and do not need to be academic (but can be.) All letters should come from someone who has supervised your work of some sort, whether academic, paid, unpaid, or community service. Those who are merely mentors or advisors are rarely good sources for recommendations.

Candidates must provide the exact number of recommendations required. Additional letters are not permitted.

Fulbright US Student Program

Requires three letters of recommendation and usually a language evaluation. Research/Study Grants and ETA Grants use two different recommendation formats,. Those writing recommendations for ETAs must use the form provided and respond to its questions; they should not write an ordinary letter. ETA recommendation and language evaluation forms must be filled out on-line. Recommendation letters for full grants must be uploaded. Deadline: September 16, 2013

Gates Scholarship

The Cambridge application requires two academic letters of recommendation; the Gates supplemental requires one more letter which can be, but is not required to be, academic. Candidates will be able to register recommenders only after they submit the Cambridge online application and recommenders then have two weeks in which to submit.
Ask recommenders to also send a file copy to CURF.

Goldwater Scholarship

Requires three recommendations. All should be directly related to the candidate’s math, science or engineering focus. Deadline: First working day in January.

Marshall Scholarship

The Marshall’s four recommendations specify “preferred recommender”, “2nd recommender”, etc. These designations are not disclosed to the recommenders.
Recommenders unable to upload to the on-line Marshall system can send recommendations to CURF by email; CURF can attach them to the applicant’s electronic files. Limited to 1000 words.
Deadline: September 26, 2013

Rhodes Scholarship

The Rhodes Scholarship requires at least five recommendations and permits up to eight. At least four of these letters must be academic.
The recommender registration for the Rhodes Scholarship is the same process as registering an endorser. To prevent errors, register the endorser first: Harriet Joseph, EdD, . Letters should be addressed by name to Rhodes regional secretaries. This information can be obtained from CURF or via the Rhodes website.
Ask recommenders to also send a file copy to CURF.
Deadline: September 26, 2013

Thouron Award

Three recommendations to be uploaded to online application via the instructions found at the Thouron Award page. There is one access link for members of the Penn community and one for those without a Pennkey. Ideally, at least two of these letters are from members of the Penn standing faculty.
Deadline October 15

Truman Scholarship

Requires three recommendations. Recommenders do not need to return the cover sheet with their letter. Recommenders do not have access to upload letters; they should send their recommendations by email to Harriet Joseph, Director of CURF, . Candidates must communicate with CURF which category each letter is for. Limited to 1000 words.

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