Resources for Faculty and Advisors

Faculty and Academic advisors play critical roles in identifying and recruiting students for many opportunities, especially the nationally competitive scholarships. The following pages contain information that I hope is helpful to you as you work with your students; you may be the person who first introduces them to the various fellowship and scholarship opportunities available.

Role of the Fellowships Advisor

The Fellowships Advisor assists the student in all stages of the application process for competitive, merit-based national fellowships. The advisor provides information and advice on available programs, opportunities for strategic planning and reflection, and guidance for completing a competitive application. The advisor also reads and comments upon scholarship essays.

Through outreach to the campus community, the Fellowships Advisor seeks to develop a campus culture that identifies and encourages motivated students to pursue these enriching educational opportunities.

Early identification/recruitment of the student is very important. Students can be identified as early as the freshman year, requiring support by individual faculty, departments, and colleges BEFORE any application begins. Talented students should be encouraged to apply for experiences and opportunities, such as undergraduate research and internships that will help them in the application down the road. There is also great educational value in the application process itself whether a student wins a scholarship or not.


Please contact Laura Damuth, Director of National and International Fellowships, if you would like to schedule a presentation for a class, department meeting, student club or other gathering. More focused workshops on personal statements can also be scheduled.

Identifying students

Finding talented students to apply for these scholarships can be difficult. Below are some criteria that may be helpful:

Academic excellence: All competitive fellowships are looking for students who have done well in the classroom (3.6 and above), and some expect students to have done extremely well (3.8 and above).

Involvement/Leadership: Strong applicants are not just good classroom learners, they also have been engaged in community service, or show some kind of leadership on campus or in the community. They are involved in campus organizations, planning events, or are taking leadership in research both on and off campus.

Profile “outside of the norm:” Does this student just stand out? Do they have interests and experiences that extend to other disciplines or activities? In addition, competitive students are curious and engaged with a wide variety of different topics. They are ambitious.

If you know a student who you think would be competitive for one of these awards, please send Laura Damuth their complete name (and NU ID if possible), and I will follow up with them.

Writing Fellowship Letters of Recommendation

Each letter of recommendation is different depending upon the scholarship. Below are some general considerations.

Be sure that you have read a bit about the scholarship that the student is applying for, especially the selection criteria, and think about ways that you can address those in the letter. How does the student demonstrate or fulfill the criteria?

Length: In general, you should plan on about a page, single-spaced, typed. Of course the length of your letter will vary depending on the scholarship. For example, the Marshall scholarship limits the letter to 1000 words; the ETA Fulbright asks that the recommender not write a letter, but rather answer a series of 5 questions about the student.

Content: Detail is the most important aspect of the letter and it is important to provide information about the applicant based on your first-hand knowledge of the student.

  • Make clear the context in which you know the student. (How long? Have you had any meaningful interactions in or outside of class?)
  • When making “qualitative” statements (“Sally is a student of above-average intelligence and motivation”), remember that many students applying for this particular scholarship will fall into this category. Enrich the qualitative assessment with more specific statements about the student. (“Sally is an exceptional student and stood out in my class. She always completed the reading and had very thoughtful insights on it. In one particular instance in our reading of Alan Bloom’s, The Closing of the American Mind, Sally, out of all the students in the class, was able to understand and summarize a very difficult passage.”)
  • Mention Examples of what the applicant has done (e.g., if the student wrote a brilliant paper, mention its topic and why it stood out).
  • Highlight the Merits of the proposed research project, course of study, internship, etc.
  • Consider the Positive impact the fellowship will have on the student's short- or long-term goals and overall educational trajectory.
  • Place the student in a larger context: e.g., a letter could compare the present applicant to past applicants/winners. If possible, the student can be compared to graduate students or professionals. Quantitative remarks and percentages may be useful: "among the three best students I have taught." The strongest comparisons have the widest reach: "top 5% of students in my 20 years of teaching" is stronger than "the best in his class." If need be, you can also draw on the remarks of colleagues for supporting evidence or the acknowledgement of specific strengths. Letters from professors may also draw on the comments from teaching assistants who may have worked more closely with the applicants.

Serving on Fellowship Committees

The Purpose of Committees

The Fellowships Advisor assembles faculty committees to help with student applications in three different ways: to review and read applications, to meet with students face-to-face to help them prepare their applications, working with them to refine his/her ideas; and to serve on mock interview panels to aid in preparation for an upcoming scholarship interview. All of these processes are important practice for a student who will be applying for graduate school, internships, jobs, or other fellowships. By serving on one of these fellowship committees, you are helping to shape the path of each student you meet.

If you are interested in serving on one of these committees (UK Fellowship Committee, Fulbright Committee, Goldwater Review Committee, or the Mock Interview Committee), please contact Laura Damuth.