The Rhodes and
Marshall Scholarships

Letters of recommendation


Letters of recommendation (five to eight for the Rhodes and four for the Marshall) are a tricky matter and need to be handled with great diplomacy.  The candidate wants the recommender to cover certain aspects of character so each is unique, yet the candidate doesn't want to dictate those letters or program them in such a way to determine who covers what.  The candidate wants them to be frank, honest and credible, yet the candidate needs positive, incredibly strong supportive statements.  The candidate wants them to write their letters in such a way as to appeal to what the selectors have in mind, and yet the candidate has no wish to imply that the recommenders don't know how to write such letters.  A tricky matter indeed.

What follows is offered to both recommendee and recommender, to both inexperienced and experienced writers alike in a spirit of "genericism."  Different scholarships are looking for different things, and the following list are bits of advice derived from regional and national conferences on the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships, from specific guides such as Penn State's "Writing Recommendation Letters" which gives specific advice and samples of both Rhodes and Marshall letters of recommendation, from Rhodes and Marshall web sites and from personal experience.  Some comments below are clearly addressed to the candidate, others to the recommender, but I am consciously mixing the two.

I am asking students to make available relevant materials (such as the relevant sections of the Penn State guide) to any professors who might be writing letters of recommendation.  If you feel such materials are unnecessary, feel free to dispense with them, but I personally found them useful.  (One always worries about causing offense in such matters which is why I am offering the materials to everyone.)

Who should write the letter



By all means feel free to ask for any assistance from us or offer any advice to us.  (I can always add the latter to these web pages.)  We have the Penn State guide mentioned above as well as other writing aids. And we can offer your letter an outsider's perspective.  That is, in terms of your relationship with your student we might be able to suggest where to expand, when to add more detail.
  Wadham College Dining Hall, Oxford Wadham College Dining Hall, Oxford  
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