Letters of recommendation for fellowships should come from people who know you well and who can support the claims you make in your application. It does not help to be recommended by a Nobel Prize winner or a U.S. senator if he or she does not know you and cannot write a detailed letter of support. If one of the most important activities you list on your Truman application is your work to improve disabilities services at Brown, a letter from Brown's Director of Student and Employee Accessibility Services (SEAS) is important. Think of your application as a unified whole in which all parts work together; your letters should support and amplify other parts of the application.
As soon as you begin to think seriously about applying for a fellowship, make appointments with your potential referees to discuss your interest in the award. Seek their advice and ask if they would support your endeavor.
To make the process easier for your referees and to ensure that you get the strongest letters possible, give your referees enough advance notice and provide them with the materials they need. Recommendation materials should go to your referees at least two weeks before the deadline. Provide the following materials to your referees:
- The recommendation form itself. In most cases, referees may write the letter on their own letterhead, but they might also need to include the form. If someone is writing multiple letters for you, make sure you emphasize that each fellowship needs to have its own letter specific to the application and addressed to that foundation or appropriate committee at Brown.
- The following information on a separate sheet:
- The deadline;
- To whom the letter(s) should be addressed (individual or committee, relevant titles, address);
- Specific information about where the letter needs to be sent. If the letter needs to be submitted on-line, provide referees with all the relevant information about how to do so. Explain that you have registered them as referees with the foundation and that they will receive a prompt with login and password information directly from the foundation.
- A description of the fellowship and your specific project or program within it. Ideally, your letters of recommendation speak to your suitability for the fellowship. Referees need to understand the nature of the award to write strong letters of support.
- A copy of the essay(s) you have written for the fellowship(s). If your referees can read the essays and perhaps even discuss them with you, their letters will be more forceful and germane. You might also take this opportunity to ask for their feedback on your essays.
- A copy of the resume and/or activities list you plan to submit as part of your application.
- Reminders of any relevant work you did with your referees or under their direction, including papers, presentations, and research projects.