Develop Yourself as a Strong Candidate
Choose your courses carefully
Be thoughtful about the courses you take. Enroll in a variety of courses outside your major; go beyond your core requirements. Take the most challenging courses you can – push yourself to do more. Look for interesting combinations of courses; often the intersection of different courses can provide great intellectual discoveries.
Always do your best work
Always strive for excellence in your coursework. Turn in work that makes you feel proud. Ask for more work and additional readings. Try to avoid doing only the minimum required work. Professors notice students who care about their coursework even if they are not getting the best grade in the class. Take it upon yourself to learn more about some aspect of each course; discuss your interests with your professors.
Ensure that you are getting an international education
Learn about people and places outside of the United States. Study a second or third language and use that language to volunteer with community groups. Study abroad or take short-term travel courses. Select courses that expose you to people, cultures and places outside the United States.
Get to know your professors
Spend time talking with your professors. Take some time to learn about the research that your professors do. Look for opportunities to be mentored by professors. Ask about opportunities to do research with a professor or under faculty supervision. Even if a professor is unable to put you on a research team, he or she will remember that you asked.
Look for ways to increase your hands-on experience
Develop ways to show that you have pursued your interests in meaningful ways. Engage in research in your major. This can be with a professor in your department, as part of your senior thesis, or via programs like the summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) located across the country. Participate in academic conferences and meetings. Consider internships or field placement experiences that will let you further your learning beyond the classroom.
Fellowship boards are looking for students who take action. When you find issues that you care about, pursue them. Join community agencies, develop a new organization if none exists, dedicate yourself to making a difference outside your classroom. Participate in campus groups, activities and sports.
Pay attention to small things
Fellowships, scholarships, and graduate programs all require that you have professors who will recommend you with enthusiasm. Your reliability and manners when dealing with your professors help to show them that you are mature, respectful and ready for additional challenges. If you make appointments, show up on time. If you ask for extra help or letters of recommendation, send a thank you note.
Click here to find out how to get a strong letter of recommendation.
How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
Deciding who to ask
Think about the professors who know you best. Professors who know you outside of class as well as in class are better recommenders than those with whom you have had class, but no other interactions. Getting a good grade in a class does not mean that professor should necessarily be one of your recommenders. A good letter includes particular and specific information about you. If the professor does not know you well enough to write specifically about you, you should ask a different professor. Ask your faculty scholarship coach if you should seek letters from outside your chosen major and for advice about who those recommenders might be.
How to ask for the letter
It is essential that you give your letter writers as much time to complete their letters as possible. Many professors write multiple drafts of recommendation letters and this takes time. A month in advance of your deadline, approach a faculty member during his or her office hours. Ask the professor if she or he would be able and willing to write a strong letter of recommendation for you. This is difficult to do, but you must do it and you must do it face to face. Do not ask for a letter of recommendation via email or right before or after class. If the professor suggests that you ask another professor to write, accept this answer graciously and thank the professor for his or her time. If the professor says that she or he will write, offer your thanks and say that you will follow up by providing due dates, background information and a CV via email. Follow up with the following materials within the week:
- Information about the fellowship to which you are applying.
- Names, addresses and due dates for the letter of recommendation.
- A copy of your CV or resume.
- A copy of your personal statement, research proposal or other documents that you have prepared for your application.
- A brief narrative outlining for the professor your strengths and reminding the professor of particular important details.
- A copy of your grades at Pacific.
Be sure that you clarify whether letters are to be sent directly to the scholarship office, returned to you or sent to your scholarship coach at Pacific and whether the due date is a postmark date or a received by date.
Some scholarships require an online submission of recommendation letters. Be sure that you tell your faculty recommender if they will be asked to submit a letter online. You will have to provide names and contact information for your recommenders to the scholarship office before they will send out electronic requests and instructions for letters, so you will need to complete this part of the application as early as possible.
Two weeks before your letter is due, if you have not heard from the professor yet, stop by or send an email thanking the professor for having agreed to write on your behalf and asking if the professor requires any additional information from you.
Click here to find out if you are a qualified candidate.