The Center for Life Beyond Reed

Letters of Recommendation: Watson Fellowship

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program offers college graduates of "unusual promise" a year of independent, purposeful exploration and travel—in international settings new to them—to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community. In writing a letter of recommendation for the Watson program, you will be asked to compete a form with specific questions as well as given an opportunity to provide additional, unstructured comments at the end. The questions are as follows:  

  1. How long have you known the nominee, and in what capacity?

  2. In choosing fellows, we look for a collection of qualities that we call “Unusual Promise”. These characteristics include: Leadership, Imagination, Independence, Emotional Maturity, Courage, Integrity, Resourcefulness and Responsibility. How does the nominee exhibits these characteristics?

  3. What legacy or deep impression, if any, has this student left on you or your campus?

  4. In what way do you believe the Watson Fellowship would be a transformative experience for the nominee?

  5. What evidence can you provide of the nominee’s investment in the proposed project beyond academic coursework?

  6. The very premise of the nominee’s project may be upended as they encounter it “on the ground”. Do you believe that the nominee will adapt well, even thrive, under unexpected conditions? Please explain.

  7. What, if anything, gives you pause about sending the nominee on a year-long independent pursuit. What are your reservations?

  8. Please share any additional thoughts that you would like us to know or consider.

Internal letter

Please use the questions above as a guide when writing your informal letter for the internal deadline for the fellowships and awards committee. Feel free to be candid in your recommendations to the committee. Internal letters should be sent to

Final recommendations will need to be submitted online. Students are responsible for registering you as their reference writer in their online application, should they be endorsed by the committee. Once they do this you will receive instructions for how to submit your response.

Questions? Please contact