Cornell University

letters of Recommendation

Identify recommenders who:

  • know the things about you that you would like to emphasize
  • know your work from more than one class, or have seen you excel in more than one situation
  • know you both academically and personally
  • can say something meaningful about you; don't choose a recommender just because he or she has a big reputation

What recommenders need to do

They should be able to:

  • speak about you and your work in some detail, from personal experience
  • give concrete examples of times when you showed your strongest qualities
  • rank your qualities and achievements relative to those of other students (longtime faculty can do this more convincingly than TA's)

Talking to potential recommenders

Make an appointment with each recommender you are considering.

Tell the recommender:

  • which fellowships you are applying for
  • what each fellowship is looking for

Ask the recommender:

  • whether or not they think you would make a strong candidate
  • what they consider your strengths and weaknesses

Once you have chosen your recommenders

Be sure they have sufficient information about the fellowship and about your plans.

Provide them with:

  • a copy of your academic and extracurricular record
  • a copy of your personal statement
  • a description of the fellowship's intent and selection criteria

Show your appreciation of their efforts on your behalf:

  • give them 3—4 weeks to write the letter(s)
  • write a thank you note
  • keep them informed of your progress