Information for Recommenders

Deadline for letters of recommendation:  Monday, February 27, 2017 at noon

How to submit your letter of recommendation?  Once a student submits his or her phase one application, an automated email will be sent to the faculty mentor(s) that the student listed in the application. Faculty mentors will be expected to email their letters of recommendation to Corey Colwill (ccolwill@bowdoin.edu), following the instructions sent to them in the automated email, by the phase two application deadline of Monday, February 27, 2017 at noon.

What should a letter of recommendation include?  The letter of recommendation should evaluate the student’s qualifications to carry out the proposed project and assess the appropriateness of the project’s scope within the context of the discipline.  Letters should also describe the faculty-student mentoring relationship in some detail (e.g., how often will the mentor and student meet, what are the mentor’s expectations for the student) and why this plan is appropriate for the project. Brevity and lack of detail in the faculty mentor’s letter of recommendation may raise questions about the degree of faculty support for the project.  Faculty mentors will be expected to review student proposals before submitting their letters.

If you are writing letters of support for multiple students, the Student Fellowships Committee invites you to include in your letters any information you feel comfortable sharing regarding the strength of the applicant relative to the cohort.  Some recommenders have opted to do this in the past and the committee has found this explicit information very helpful. You may include this information in whatever way feels appropriate.  Some faculty may choose to rank order, others may choose to write something like, “Student A and B are both excellent and I cannot rank one over the other,” and others may choose to tell us who they feel is least competitive.  Whatever information you feel comfortable sharing would be appreciated by the committee. That said, the committee would like you to understand that, while the committee will take this information very seriously, they will make their decisions based on the entire application package.  For example, if the committee determines that an application is weak and poorly done, they are unlikely to fund that student even if he or she is the faculty mentor’s highest priority. 

If your mentee is applying for a Maine Space Grant Fellowship, please describe your efforts to identify a NASA mentor.  Please contact Cindy Stocks (cstocks@bowdoin.edu) for additional information.

Please note beginning in 2017, when students submit their phase two application, they will be asked to make a binding decision regarding whether they are seeking support for 8, 9, or 10 weeks at $400 per week to carry out their proposed project.  Applicants have been instructed to discuss with their faculty mentors what would be the appropriate duration of their fellowship and to consider their own research goals and availability as well as their faculty mentors’ availability when making this decision.  Be aware that selected fellows are expected to commit full-time effort to their research project and faculty mentors must approve the duration of the fellowship period.

What is the timeline for the submission, review and notification process? See a complete timeline here.

How will a student’s proposal be evaluated?

  • Fit with fellowship criteria. The extent to which the proposed project meets the aims of the particular fellowship to which the student is applying should be explicitly stated.
  • Relevance and significance of the proposed project. How the proposed activities relate and make an original contribution to the broader scholarly or creative field should be clear.
  • Description of the proposed project. The research question or goal should be clearly stated and the methodology, processes and procedures plainly explained. The description should be concise, free of unnecessary jargon (or with specific terms defined) and easy to understand by a non-specialist. 
  • Feasibility/scope of the proposed project. Evidence that the student has sufficient expertise, gained through previous coursework or research experience, to carry out the proposed project should be clearly outlined. In addition, what the student aims to complete, and by what dates, should be evident. The project should have a reasonable expectation of being completed.
  • Candidate's academic record. No GPA minimum is required; however, the transcript should provide evidence of sufficient coursework in the area of the proposed project and grades should indicate a strong understanding of the subject matter and likelihood of being able to carry out the project.  
  • Potential for learning. How the project will significantly enhance the student’s academic development (e.g., completion of an honor’s project) and possibly career and personal development (e.g., presentation at a conference, preparation for graduate school) should be clearly stated.
  • Budget (when applicable). The budget should be comprehensive, specific, and reasonable. All costs should be relevant and essential to the project and be justified in the budget narrative. In general, budgets demonstrating frugality will be more competitive (e.g., shared accommodations, use of public transportation). Information about domestic and international travel costs can be found on the websites of the U.S. General Services Administration and U.S. Department of State, respectively. Students are advised, however, that the rates provided on these websites are in the higher range of what the Internal Student Fellowships Committee would expect to see in a student’s budget. 

Frequent problems with fellowship applications:

  • Proposed activity’s contribution to the broader field or community not clearly stated.
  • Procedures omitted, vaguely stated, or unrelated to the project; project unrealistic or unlikely to succeed.
  • Failure to speak adequately to the student’s development.
  • Failure to demonstrate the student’s and the mentor’s engagement in the project.
  • Inflated or unreasonable budget, or narrative or notes that do not clearly support the budget.

In addition to the above, please also keep in mind:

  • Inadequate attention to style raises questions about the student’s commitment to the project and likelihood to succeed.

For any questions regarding the process and requirements of submitting a letter of recommendation, please contact Corey Colwill (ccolwill@bowdoin.edu).