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Recommendation Guidance for UK Fellowships

Rhodes, Marshall, and/or Mitchell Scholarships

NYU Request for Reference
NYU campus deadline: April 15

Instructions for Applicants

When applying for NYU’s nomination for one or more of these postgraduate scholarships, please submit at least four letters of reference, one of which must be from your primary academic recommender, by the preliminary campus deadline of April 15.

Online Applications

All 3 of these awards have applications which are fully online. NYU strongly discourages you from entering any of your recommender’s information within the online applications until our internal review is completed and your nomination has been secured. Waiting to do this will prevent needless complications later. Instead, ask your referees to submit their letters to the NYU Office of National Scholarships either in hard copy or as email attachments. Please provide your referees with the following memo of guidance, which explains the rather complex process of writing a letter of support for your application(s) for any of these awards.

General Information about the Scholarships

The Rhodes, Marshall, and Mitchell are 3 of the most prestigious and competitive postgraduate awards available to US citizens. An endowment bequeathed by Cecil Rhodes in 1903 established the Rhodes Trust to bring outstanding students to the University of Oxford. An act of Parliament in 1953 established the Marshall Scholarships to commemorate the human ideals of the Marshall Plan, instituted in 1947, and to further strengthen the "special relationship" between the US and UK. Marshall Scholars may pursue graduate study at any university in the UK. The Mitchell Scholars Program was created in 1998 to connect future American leaders to Ireland; it was named for former senator George J. Mitchell to honor his pivotal contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process. Mitchell Scholars may pursue graduate study at any university in Ireland or Northern Ireland. All 3 of these awards seek to recognize and foster intellectual achievement, leadership, and commitment to community and public service.

Institutional Endorsement

The Rhodes and Marshall scholarships require university endorsement for all applicants; students and alumni cannot apply without NYU’s nomination. The Mitchell is slightly different in that it requires institutional endorsement for all applicants who are currently matriculated students, giving alumni who are not students the ability to apply without it; however, NYU strongly encourages its alumni to pursue university endorsement regardless of their student status. Although the competitions are separate, NYU evaluates all prospective applicants through one process to determine their competitiveness. Through this process, NYU’s internal committee will determine which candidates will be endorsed.

Writing Letters of Reference for the Rhodes/Marshall/Mitchell Scholarships

These awards are extremely competitive, and letters of reference play a very important role, both in NYU’s internal review and with the district, regional, and/or national committees. Exceptional and detailed letters of recommendation are essential for candidates to advance in these competitions. The recommender should know the candidate well, believe s/he is truly exceptional, be able to write an outstanding letter of recommendation, and be able to testify to at least one specific example, if not more, of outstanding accomplishment or performance by the candidate.

In our experience, reference letters which do not give specific illustrations but instead speak in generalities, however positive, do not help the candidate. The best letters do not describe a candidate as worthy but rather explain how a candidate is truly special. We also encourage you to speak of a candidate’s character and personality. In general, a letter for any of these competitions should be from 1.5 to 2 pages in length, and should go into detail about one or more specific examples of the candidate’s excellence. Referees can and should also speak, where possible, to the candidate’s character and her/his ability to lead and use her/his talents to the full, which all together add up to a promise of effective service to the world in the future.

If you feel that you do not know the candidate well enough to write such a detailed letter, you simply do not have time to do so, or you do not feel that you can be unequivocally supportive, then please decline to write on her/his behalf. The student should have provided you with information about the scholarship(s) s/he is pursuing, as well as copies of personal statements, proposals of study, and information about extracurricular activities. They should also have discussed with you why they are pursuing the award(s) in question.

NYU’s internal review process requires only one letter per recommender per candidate, even for students who are applying for multiple awards. For students who are nominated for multiple awards, e.g. Rhodes and Marshall, recommenders will at a later date need to prepare a separate letter for each competition; these must be submitted online early in the fall semester. NYU’s Director of Scholarship Programs, will also be able to provide advice about tailoring distinct letters.

NYU campus deadline: April 15
NYU’s preliminary deadline is April 15. Decisions as to whether NYU will proceed with a candidate's nomination will be made during May. Please submit your letter on paper to Silver Center, Room 909C, or via email to, with the subject line as follows: Rhodes/Marshall/Mitchell letter for [student name].

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