Writing Recommendations for the Marshall Scholarship

Each of the four recommenders should know the candidate well, believe she or he is truly exceptional, and be able to write an outstanding and detailed letter of 750 to 1000 words describing from personal experience one or more specific examples of outstanding accomplishment, creativity, or other notable achievement by the candidate. The letter written by the designated Primary Recommender is especially important.

Letters should address the applicant’s intellectual promise and also his or her potential to perform well in a graduate program in the UK, where students are not likely to find as much structure or on-going academic feedback as they have here. Marshall Scholarships are awarded to candidates who will be leaders in their fields. The Scholarships are also intended to foster good relations between the US and the UK. Scholars are expected to be good ambassadors to the UK and, on return home, to represent the UK well in the US. To the extent that you can comment on how the candidate has demonstrated attributes and accomplishments that are relevant to these considerations, please do so. Committees may be skeptical of letters that are too effusive or unqualified in their praise, and recommenders are encouraged to take a forthright tone. If relevant, include discussion of areas in which the candidate has not reached his or her full potential, and how this can be achieved. It’s also helpful if you can say something specific about the appropriateness of the chosen U.K. academic programs.

To the extent possible, your letter should address:

  • Distinction of intellect and character as evidenced by the student’s scholastic attainments or by other activities or achievements through which you know the applicant;
  • Adequate preparation for the proposed course of study, particularly upper-level course work, and demonstrated strength in a major field;
  • Ability to play an active part in the life of a United Kingdom university, and the potential to make a significant contribution to his or her own society.
  • Evidence of demonstrated leadership—not titles or offices held, but actions that had an impact on how others think or behave, whether in an academic or non-academic setting.
  • Potential for the applicant to have a major impact on his or her chosen field of endeavor.

The Marshall selection committee will ask for a draft of your letter before the national deadline to help us in our internal nomination process. We will tell you about uploading the letter online after a decision has been made about whether the College will nominate the candidate. Please do not submit your letter online until you hear from us. I am happy to talk with you about writing a recommendation for this or other fellowships, and to respond to drafts. Thanks very much for helping our applicants! See more about the Marshall Scholarship at http://www.marshallscholarship.org/