The Center for Life Beyond Reed

Letters of Recommendation: Fulbright Study/Research

The Fulbright US Student Program funds one-year post-graduate awards for study and research in more than 140 countries. The following are some suggestions for writing effective recommendations for students applying for research-based Fulbright Grants:

Address the applicant's "Fulbrightness." Fulbright applicants are evaluated on: (1) the merits and feasibility of the proposed project, (2) knowledge of the host country, (3) academic and other qualifications, especially in regard to the proposed project, (4) language qualifications, if applicable, (5) evidence of maturity, motivation and ability to adapt to a different culture, (6) impression the applicant will make as a citizen-ambassador of the US. Since the student you are writing for is applying for a research-type grant, your letter should address the merits of the proposed project and as many of the other criteria as you feel you can speak to. Keep in mind that the Fulbright program is not only an educational exchange program; it is a cultural exchange program  for which the applicant’s potential for cultural engagement will also be assessed. Additional information can be found here.

Tell "stories." The letter must bring the student to life with specific examples of achievement and ability as they relate to the aims of the Fulbright program and the evaluation criteria.

Write about the applicant. Fulbright selection committees don't care about an institution's US News ranking or other bragging points. Nor are they interested in the recommender's credentials and accomplishments, except as they may provide important background and context for the letter. In short, put the spotlight on the applicant.

Speak to Your Audience: You can assume that the people who will read your letter for the Fulbright competition are academics and diplomatic officials who have an expertise in the region the student is applying to. However, they are most likely not experts in the subject the student is studying. Think of them as a highly-educated lay audience. Readers will be looking to you to add depth and perspective to the student regarding their "Fulbrightness," their intellectual ability and potential as a cultural ambassador, so be sure to address those topics. Finally, keep in mind that letters that are too short or too long may hurt the applicant. Generally speaking, a one to two page single-spaced letter suffices for this competition. Letters should be signed, on letterhead, and uploaded as PDFs.

Letters can be addressed to: Fulbright Scholarship Selection Committee.

All reference forms are submitted online: When the applicant registers you in the Institute of International Education (IIE) Application system as a recommender, you will receive a message from IIE with directions for accessing your form. IMPORTANT: If after submitting your form online you discover errors or wish to make revisions, you must ask that the letter be "unsubmitted" and returned to you by sending a request to (detailed instructions are on the Fulbright site under Recommendations). The system does not allow Reed College faculty or staff to do this for you, however, if you need assistance please feel free to reach out to