The Center for Life Beyond Reed

Letters of Recommendation: Boren/NSEP Awards

The Boren Scholarship is funded by the National Security Education Program (NSEP) through the U.S. State Department. The Boren seeks to award high achieving students who:

1. Plan to study abroad off the beaten path: Any student who is planning to study abroad outside of Western Europe, Canada, Australia or New Zealand is eligible for a Boren Scholarship. The Boren also especially seeks to reward students who plan to study abroad for at least six months or longer (as this doesn't quite correlate with the semester calendar, students tend to pursue programs that enable them to be abroad for a summer and fall, a spring and summer, or an entire academic year).

2. Have a commitment to improving their foreign language skills, and have picked a study abroad program which will enable them to receive consistent language instruction: In order to be eligible for a Boren Scholarship, the student has picked a program that will offer them significant language instruction during their time abroad. For Boren, there is no minimum language qualification necessary to be a strong applicant; students do not need to have reached a certain level of proficiency, nor do they necessarily need any previous language instruction in order to be a competitive applicant in this competition (though it doesn't hurt). While the Boren supports study for several dozen languages, the languages that tend to receive the most scholarships are Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Japanese.

3. Have a plan to fulfill the Boren's public service requirement: In exchange for the financial support, students who are named Boren Scholars commit to working for the federal government for at least a year in a position related to national security. "National Security" is very broadly defined by the NSEP; while it can certainly include positions in the State and Defense Departments, it could also include positions with the EPA, the NIH, the CDC, USAID, and literally dozens of other positions within the U.S. government.

The national Boren committee closely examines three aspects of each applicant: 1) The applicant's academic background and how it is preparing them to pursue their professional goals, 2) The applicant's study abroad program and plan, and how those will enable the student to have a significant language and cultural experience, and 3) The applicant's overall academic and career goals, and how their study abroad experience will enable them to launch into their preferred position in the public sector before they go on to pursue other career goals.

Connect the student's academic experience to their study abroad experience: Draw on your experience with your student or advisee to comment on how the subjects they studied prepares them to complete the proposed study abroad program successfully. Feel free to also offer an opinion on how you think the experience of studying abroad and then further undergraduate language study once the student returns to Reed will enable them to achieve their career goals.

Make the case for excellence: Use anecdotes to bring the student to life in your letter; talk about your experience with them as a student and a scholar. If you've had the applicant in your classroom, then it helps to favorably compare them with their classmates as well as with other outstanding students you've taught throughout the years.

Speak to your audience: Your audience will come from a wide variety of academic backgrounds; they could be language professors, area studies or international studies professors, or they could be study abroad program advisors. They will have an expertise in the region the student wants to study in, but they may not have an expertise in the specific country the student wants to go to. Also, be thorough but also be brief; a letter that's one to one-and-a-half pages single spaced will suffice for this competition.

1. Letters can be addressed to: Boren Scholarship Selection Committee.

2. Letters must be submitted directly into the online application. The student will register your name and email address in the application, which will then send you a link with further instructions.  Letters must be submitted by the campus deadline.

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