Serving on a selection committee

The office of National Scholarships and Awards organizes review committees throughout the academic year. If you would like to participate in a review/selection committee, contact nsa@indiana.edu.

In addition to local selection and review committees, NSA can submit names of faculty to serve on national committees such as Fulbright, Critical Language, etc. Contact nsa@indiana.edu if you are interested in serving on a national committee.

Letters of recommendation

Letters of recommendation, evaluation, or reference are highly weighted in the selection process. Strong letters are important for success in national scholarships and fellowships competitions, which are by nature exceptionally competitive.

The NSA provides guidelines for writing letters for a select number of awards and can share advice on writing letter.

In your letter of recommendation, remember to:

  • Make claims for the student's fit for the scholarship or fellowship and provide concrete supporting evidence;
  • Provide context - consider what the audience doesn't know about Indiana University, your course, your research, or your and your student's backgrounds;
  • Moderate your praise - superlatives are acceptable when specifically tied to examples. Good descriptions illustrate relevant skills. Effusive praise or hyperbole degrades credibility;
  • Use narrative techniques when providing examples - show the student in action and illustrate your superlative descriptions; and
  • Offer fair criticism of the student, thereby enhancing credibility. Consider (briefly) discussing the student's areas in need of improvement, and try to turn his or her shortcomings into virtues.

In some cases, declining to write a letter might be the best thing to do. Saying "no" to a student for a valid reason is preferable to writing a less-than-helpful letter of recommendation. Feel free to decline if:

  • the students asks too close to the deadline;
  • the student asks you in an unprofessional manner;
  • you cannot recall anything specific about the student, aside from the records in your gradebook;
  • you feel that you cannot provide an overall positive evaluation or if you have reservations about the student's commitment, motivation, or character; or
  • If you feel that you are not an appropriate referee for this particular award, or that your observations will not be relevant to the selectors.