The Center for Life Beyond Reed

Letters of Recommendation: Truman Scholarship

The Truman Scholarship exists to support the next generation of public servants and public policy experts. Up to 65 Truman Scholarships are awarded nationally each year to juniors who are planning to pursue a career as a leader in the public service sector including (but not limited to) the government, non-profit organizations, public policy think tanks, education, and public health agencies. If awarded a Truman Scholarship, a student will receive a $30,000 scholarship for graduate or professional school. In exchange for that scholarship, the student commits to working in the public sector for at least three years before or after completing their graduate education. In addition to the money, the award opens doors to incredible academic opportunities, other fellowships, scholarships, graduate school acceptance and job opportunities.

Please review this guidance for letter writers on the Truman website

The national Truman committee closely examines three aspects of each applicant:

  1. The applicant's leadership background, and how their leadership experience demonstrates that they have the motivation and the know-how to bring people together and get things done,
  2. The applicant's overall academic and career goals, and how those show a demonstrated interest in working in the public service sector,
  3. The applicant's academic background and how it is preparing them to pursue their professional goals. 

As a letter of recommendation writer, you may feel that you're in a good position to write on any or all of those points when it comes to your experience with your applicant. But the Truman Foundation tells students to ask for three letters of recommendation for this scholarship, and requests that each letter focus specifically on one of those aspects. Once the student tells you which area they would like you to focus on, there are a couple other things you can keep in mind:

Leadership Abilities and Potential: If your letter focuses on how you've seen this student act as a leader among their peers and if you can bring in anecdotes of events where you've seen this student rise above and beyond when they are challenged with a task, then you'll be in good shape. The student will be contacting you (if they haven't already!) to talk a little more about this letter. That's because events the applicant describes in an application essay need to be reinforced in your letter.

Commitment to a Career in Public Service: When talking about public service, it's important to articulate specifically how you see this student making an impact at the local/state/national level. You may have a good sense of this from your academic, extra-curricular or community service experience with the student, and you may have an even better sense of where they can make an impact and how they can make an impact from your discussions with them.

Intellect and Prospects for Continuing Academic Success: If your letter focuses mostly on specific experiences with the student in your classroom, if you discuss specific events where the student stood out to you either in a class discussion or assignment, and if you can talk briefly about how the student demonstrated prowess as an academically and intellectually driven individual then you'll be good to go. Also, as this is technically a graduate school fellowship, it helps to articulate your impressions of how well the student seems academically and intellectually seems prepared for graduate work.

All letters need to be printed on letterhead, signed and submitted as a hardcopy or scanned and emailed to