FAQ: How should I handle letters of recommendation?

Making the Lives of your Letter Writers Easier

It can be intimidating asking for letters. At least, for me it was. Knowing how long it took for me to write a good letter, made me timid when reaching out to professors. However, I overcame my hesitation and I encourage you to do the same.  You will be surprised how many people will be willing to support you on your journey if you only just ask!

While applying to the Fulbright, I figured out a pretty good system to ensure that your recommenders can write a letter that is personal, detailed, and strong!

First, select your letter writers wisely. This means, 1. checking the Fulbright requirements as to who can write a letter and 2. only asking individuals who you know well enough to write about you.

If you ask an instructor/professor and they decline writing you a letter, don’t press and don’t worry! They are just being honest with you and may feel that they could not write the best, and most positive, letter on your behalf. You should find someone you have a stronger relationship with, even if their specialty lies outside of your field of research. 

Second, draft an email. This is a SUPER important step because it will give your letter writer all the information they could need. As brief as possible, you should include in the body of your email: Their letter deadline (I like to bold the date), what to expect (for example, Fulbright sends letter writers a personalized link to the application portal), and an outline of what is attached to the email. Be sure to thank them for taking the time to write you a recommendation!

I did attach quite a few documents to my email, as the Fulbright application is particular and huge! I attached: an updated transcript, my relevant résumé, a PDF of the official Recommendation Writers instruction page, a document that included brief blurb of my Statement of Grant Purpose, and a personalized letter.

Within the personalized letter I included valuable information intended for that letter writer. I included sections that described, my relationship/history with the writer (how they knew me), my Fulbright goals, why I believed I was an excellent candidate (don’t be afraid to really hype yourself up! You deserve it!), and what I wanted them to discuss in my letter.

A few final notes:

Remember to put time into the portfolio for your Letter Writers. Something well written, could inspire them to include it in your letter! Give yourself and your writers TIME! Great things shouldn’t be rushed :)


Best of luck in your letters!