The Office of Distinguished and Postgraduate Scholarships (ODPS) provides guidance through every step of the application process. This is provided through services such as workshops and informational sessions on specific nationally competitive awards, coaching applicants, as well as helping faculty and staff navigate the fellowship programs and connect available students to these sources.
Letter of Recommendation
To facilitate the work of letter writers, whose comments will play a critical role in your selection chances, please keep the following in mind:
- Cultivate close, ongoing relationships early in your undergraduate career.
- Ask potential letter writers whether they would be willing to write STRONG recommendations for you; politely ask for their frank assessment and be strategic about how you approach each.
- Keep in mind some faculty will be on leave in the semester you would need their letter submission; find out in advance whether your potential writers will be accessible when you need them (whether on campus or through e-communication).
- Give your letter writers plenty of notice (preferably two to three months prior to internal deadlines) and gentle reminders (one month, two weeks in advance) as deadlines approach.
- Send your letter writers specific instructions on letter formatting and submission; make sure to copy their assistant if you know that person will be keeping tabs on letter filing.
- Send your letter writers selection criteria for each fellowship to which you apply.
- Fill out the Applicant History Questionnaire and forward it to your letter writers, or send your letter writers materials to support their detailed assessment of your application (your transcripts/course background, resume/list of extracurricular activities, plan or proposed course of study for each particular fellowship, relevant background information for them to paint a fuller picture of who you are).
- If you think your writers would find letter-writing guidance useful, you can forward them the following message(s): LoR Guide for Faculty; LoR Guide for Organizational Supervisors
- Download each file after logging in with your UT EID. Attach the file to your email requesting the rec letters, along with the completed Applicant History Questionnaire.
- Ask your letter writers to address specific traits required of each fellowship (e.g. a leadership letter or a letter attesting to your scholastic abilities regarding a specialized field of study).
- Indicate where relevant that you are willing to waive your right to see the letters.
- Make sure you have asked for the appropriate number of letters required for each fellowship.
Should you require more guidance in this process, do not hesitate to contact the Office of Distinguished & Postgraduate Scholarships directly.
Many applications require applicants to provide a statement of purpose, an academic statement, and/or essay responses. Preparing a competitive application takes time and dedication. Applicants are encouraged to begin drafting their statements and/or essay responses early.
The following are a few tips to help you prepare a competitive personal statement or essay:
- Carefully review the prompt. It is important to understand and address all aspects of the prompt in your statement or essay.
- Clearly articulate your academic and professional goals. Reviewers should be able to understand what your goals are and why this scholarship and/or the proposed program of study is of interest to you.
- Reflect on the impactful experiences that have shaped you and your goals. Connect these experiences to help the reader understand your mission – the impact you want to make on the world.
- Write short, clear, vivid sentences.
Use evidence/facts to support the points you discuss in your statement or essay.
- Write, review, and revise. Ask for feedback from various individuals such as peers, mentors, faculty, and advisors. UT students and alumni applying for national scholarships and fellowships may request feedback from the ODPS team. Requests and drafts for review should be submitted at least two weeks before the deadline. The ODPS team cannot provide feedback for the Rhodes personal statement.
An excellent guide to writing effective prose is John Trimble’s Writing With Style (any edition).
A provocative handbook for deepening your thinking is Edward De Bono’s Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step.
Chip Heath and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die is also worth consulting as you think about framing your materials.
Additional Campus Resources
Advising and Development
- CNS Honors Scholarships Officefor College of Natural Sciences advising
- Texas Global for advising on Gilman, Fulbright, study & internships abroad
- Foreign Language & Area Studies Fellowship (contact Lindsey Engelman) for funding to study foreign languages
- Longhorn Center for Community Engagement for community engagement opportunities
- Leadership & Ethics Institute for leadership workshops and training
- Public Speaking Center at Sanger Learning Center for public speaking practice
- Liberal Arts Career Services pre-law & graduate school advising
- College of Natural Sciences health professions advising
- Texas Career Engagement career development and employer connections
- Bridging Disciplines to earn a complementary certificate with research and internship experiences
- Office of Undergraduate Research for opportunities to do research, earn course credit, get advising, and present work
- Junior Fellows for any UT undergraduate with 60 credit hours prior to the Fall semester of application, to engage in scholarly activities such as research and seminar talks
- Rapoport-King Thesis Scholarship for Plan I College of Liberal Arts students writing a Departmental Honors Program thesis
- CARAT Scholarship Search – open database for graduate and undergraduate opportunities
- Global Assist – funding for opportunities abroad
It is the university’s goal to increase the number of UT students and alumni applying and being selected for prestigious scholarships as the Rhodes, Marshall, Knight Hennessy, and Truman (to name a few). One way to achieve this is by ensuring all students have access to scholarship information and support from the Office of Distinguished and Postgraduate Scholarships (ODPS).
As faculty and staff, you work closely with UT’s excellent students. Our office needs your assistance in identifying potential applicants. The students we are looking for share some if not all of the following characteristics:
- They have displayed leadership skills in an important endeavor to which they are committed.
- They demonstrated academic excellence. Although some scholarships require a 3.7 GPA or higher, not all do.
- They can communicate clearly.
- They are respected by their peers and mentors.
- They wish to do something important for others.
We encourage you and your students to learn more about the many scholarships and fellowships available.
To refer a student, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are essential to the fellowship application process. Outstanding students and alumni of the UT at Austin will need letters of recommendation from individuals that can speak about their intellectual acuity, leadership, commitment to public service, and character. The Office of Distinguished and Postgraduate Scholarships is a resource for recommenders supporting applicants for prestigious awards. Consider the following tips when preparing your letter:
- Please send your letter on relevant institutional or organization letterhead (unless otherwise instructed) and include your full title along with a “handwritten” signature (even if produced electronically).
- Address your letter to the specific person/body governing the fellowship (e.g. “To the Marshall Selection Committee”); each fellowship application requires its own tailored letter.
- Letters should be one-and-a-half to two pages, single-spaced, as this length approximates the detail with which you should describe your knowledge of and relationship with the applicant.
- Generally, many fellowships look for the following attributes in winners, so keep these in mind when drafting comments: academic achievement, integrity of character, respect for and service to fellow beings, leadership, commitment to cause and ability to seize opportunities.
- Frame your relationship with the student (context, timeline of relationship).
- Tailor your comments to address the criteria for selection for specific scholarships.
- Contextualize the student’s standing in relation to your history of teaching/mentorship (e.g. “among the top five students I have taught in the last decade”; “top 1% of my 200-person class”).
- Contextualize the details of the student’s achievements in particular classes, projects, or organizations.
- Ask applicants to provide you with all the information you need to write the letter. Do not ask students to draft their own letters.
- Most letters are submitted electronically through the scholarship’s submission portal. For a few scholarships requiring early vetting by UT, recommendation letters will be submitted to the ODPS office.
Should you have questions or require more guidance for particular scholarships and fellowships, please do not hesitate to contact ODPS at email@example.com.
ODPS supports all UT students and alumni when applying for prestigious scholarships such as the Truman, Rhodes, and Marshall, among others. The ODPS administers the UT Austin nomination process for many of the awards that require university endorsement. This work is accomplished with the help of UT faculty, staff, alumni, and community members.
We are always looking for individuals to work with our office to select and/or support the UT nominees. There are at least three ways you might help:
1. Serve on a selection committee for one or more of the scholarships (Marshall, Rhodes, Mitchell, Truman, Gaither, and Beinecke). Committee members read and assess the applications, interview the applicants, and collectively select the UT nominee(s).
2. Mentor a nominee. The mentor meets with a nominee to discuss future goals, review their scholarship application, provide feedback on their statement and/or essay, and help with interview preparation.
3. Serve as a mock interviewer. Mock interviews are conducted to help prepare the selected nominees for interviews with the scholarship’s selection committee at the regional and national levels. We’ll point out that while traditionally these have been conducted in person, the Zoom universe has expanded our scheduling options.
If you are interested and available to serve in any of these roles, please contact professor Douglas Bruster. If you have questions and would like to discuss this in more detail, we would be delighted to schedule a time to talk.