University of Vermont

The Honors College

The Beinecke Scholarship: Tips for Letter of Recommendation Writers

The Beinecke Scholarship seeks to find and support students in the humanities, social sciences, and arts who have demonstrated outstanding academic prowess and who wish to attend graduate school. The Beinecke is a $30,000 graduate school fellowship with an additional $4,000 cash award that students apply for in their junior year of college. Twenty Beinecke Scholarships are awarded nationally each year, and the University of Vermont may nominate one student each year to compete for this award.

Once nominated, approximately 100 students from all over the country compete for Beinecke Scholarships. When determining which applicants to award, Beinecke representatives are looking for four things: 1) Academic excellence, 2) Strong intellectual experience (e.g., opportunities for independent research, publications, conference presentations, etc.) 3) Demonstrated financial need (i.e., the candidate must be receiving some sort of financial aid), and 4) Validation of academic prowess and potential from letter of recommendation writers. As you're writing your letter, we'd like to encourage you to keep the following points in mind:

Make the Case for Excellence: The Beinecke truly seeks to reward excellence; in past years Beinecke Scholars have had an outstanding academic record that has enabled them to go directly to top graduate programs right after finishing their bachelor's degree. Be specific in terms of what has impressed you in your interactions with the student, and bring the student to life in your letter. There are a couple effective ways to do this; you can bring in specific examples or anecdotes from your experience with the student in the classroom or in individual meetings. To that end, avoid being vague, and avoid statements such as, "X Student turned in assignments on time" or "X Student had perfect attendance in my class" (True, these are important qualities, but when articulating excellence these should go without saying).

Confirm and Validate the Student's Academic and Career Goals: Be sure to comment on the student's sincere commitment as well as ability to continue going forward in their field in a top-tier graduate school, and be sure to address the student's potential to make a significant and compelling impact in their field. It's helpful if you can genuinely and favorably compare the student to other outstanding undergraduate (or graduate) students you've worked with.

Speak to Your Audience: The letter you write for a student applying for a Beinecke Scholarship should be similar to the kind of letter you would write for a student going to graduate school. Readers will be looking to you to add depth and perspective to the student regarding their academic achievement, intellectual ability, and potential to succeed in graduate school. Finally, keep in mind that letters that are too short or too long may hurt the applicant. Generally speaking, a one-and-a-half to two page single-spaced letter suffices for this competition.

Finally, some administrative details:

1. All letters need to be submitted as a hard copy, signed on letterhead, and in a sealed envelope.

2. Letters can be addressed to: Beinecke Scholarship Selection Committee.

3. The deadline for students to submit their Beinecke applications is January 21, 2014 but students may need their references before then to complete their applications. Touch base with the student if you're confused about any deadlines.

Last modified August 21 2013 02:17 PM