Letters of Recommendation - Fellowships and Scholarships Skip Navigation

Letters of Recommendation

Good letters of recommendation are key to many application processes, but asking for one may seem daunting or awkward at first. Learn how to request a letter with respect and tact.
Professor Ken Belanger talking to a student at his desk.

How to Ask for a Letter

  1. Plan to ask someone who knows you well and who will be able to discuss in detail what makes you distinctive.

  2. Ask well in advance of the deadline. It is suggested to ask for a letter of recommendation a semester before needed. And then continue to communicate and provide them with the information described below. For some faculty, once they have the information three to six weeks may be adequate, yet others may need longer. It is often helpful to consult with the recommender to see how much lead-time is needed. This is especially true for letters for major fellowships and for letters to be written over the summer.

  3. Schedule an appointment with your recommenders to discuss the scholarship, selection criteria, your most recent and commendable activities, and to suggest what each recommender might emphasize.

What to Bring to the Meeting

Cover letter
Your cover letter should contain three key components:
  1. Thanking the recommender for taking the time to write the letter, and to whom or how it should be sent.
  2. Specifying the scholarship that it's for and including three or four bullets concerning the topics the recommender should cover (usually from the scholarship website).
  3. Mentioning a date that you will check in with them about the letter. This should be well before the actual deadline.

Long resume
Your long resume gives the recommender a more complete view of your internships, professional experiences, research and scholarship, civic engagement, leadership, and honors and awards. Please set up a time to visit our office for more information about how to construct an effective long resume.

Unofficial transcript
Your unofficial transcript provides your recommender an overview of your academic program to-date, including your Colgate study-abroad experiences.

Polished application draft
If you have a polished draft of your essay, such as a personal statement, include this as well in the packet.

Other Tips

  • Important to remember: Letters of recommendation for fellowships and scholarships should come directly to Renee Copperwheat in the Office of National Fellowships and Scholarships. Please be aware and inform your recommenders of any special requirements related to your fellowship application.

  • If nominated by Colgate,there may be additional instructions and requirements for your recommenders. Some letters of recommendation may have to be submitted online, specifically by the recommender.

  • Keep in touch with your recommenders through your application process. Update them on your progress.

  • Share the outcome with your recommenders by making a personal phone call and sending them a thank-you note to express your appreciation for their time and effort.