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Recommendation Letters

The recommendation letters allow you to nominate two strong advocates who will complement your application contributions and confirm your qualifications, your potential, and your demonstration of our three criteria.

Ask for recommendation letters from two individuals who have the necessary knowledge of your qualifications, the desire to enthusiastically support your candidacy, and the time to author a strong endorsement. These recommenders must be able to provide specific examples, anecdotes, and evidence.

Register the recommenders through your online application as early in the application process as possible. The application system will send each recommender a personalized link to submit the recommendation online.

Recommendations are due by the application deadline. If you have completed the rest of the application and only the letters are missing, go ahead and submit your application. The system will permit you to submit your application even if your recommendations are not yet submitted. You need to submit your completed online application by the deadline, even if your recommendation letters have not been submitted.

We ask your recommenders to rate character and leadership traits and to respond to the following prompts:

  1. Please explain how you know and interact with the applicant.
  2. We seek visionary thinkers who demonstrate independence of thought. Describe how the applicant demonstrates intellectual curiosity and creativity to address challenges.
  3. We seek courageous leaders who demonstrate purposeful leadership. Describe how the applicant takes initiative to achieve meaningful results and effect positive change.
  4. We seek collaborative community members with a civic mindset. Describe how the applicant acts in service of others to elevate the greater good.
  5. Is there anything else — positive or negative — that we should know about the applicant?

Choosing Your Recommenders 

Remember that your two separate applications — the Knight-Hennessy Scholars application and the Stanford graduate program application — have distinct evaluation criteria, application requirements, selection processes and timelines, and admissions committees. The recommenders you choose for your Stanford graduate program application may or may not be your best advocates for your Knight-Hennessy Scholars application. Carefully consider whether you want to select the same recommenders or different recommenders for your two applications. If you select the same recommenders, please encourage your recommenders to tailor their letters for each application.

Here are a few additional considerations as you choose recommenders:

  • We care about the content of the letter, not about the title or status of the person who wrote it. We are far more interested in your accomplishments than those of your recommender.
  • The strongest letters we receive come from individuals who have interacted with you closely, extensively, and recently (typically in the last two or three years).
  • The strongest letters we receive come from those who have observed and can comment, with specific examples, on your progress towards a goal. Character references without supporting evidence, even when highly positive, do not meaningfully improve your candidacy.
  • Your recommendations may be from academic, community, or professional contexts.
  • You may not write, draft, edit, translate, or submit the letter of reference. We will require you to affirm in your application that you have not done so. 
  • It is inappropriate to ask a family member to provide a recommendation letter.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: May I ask my family or friend to write a recommendation letter?

A: It is inappropriate to ask a family member to provide a recommendation. A friend is different from a peer. A peer is someone with whom you have worked towards a common goal. You may ask a peer for a recommendation.

Q: I have both personal and work email addresses for my recommender.  Which one should I use for the application?

A: Please use a work email address when available.

Q: May I ask the same person to provide recommendations for both Knight-Hennessy Scholars and my graduate degree program? 

A:  Yes, you may. However, when choosing recommenders, please remember that your two applications have distinct evaluation criteria, application requirements, selection processes and timelines, and admissions committees. If you choose the same recommenders, please encourage your recommenders to tailor their letters for each application.

Q: Do you review the recommendation letters from my graduate degree program?

A: Your Knight-Hennessy Scholars recommendations are typically the only recommendation letters that we will review before we provide input to your graduate program. We may occasionally request to access and review your recommendation letters for your graduate degree program if we believe they will aid us in our evaluation efforts. However, we encourage you to apply with the knowledge that we do not customarily review your recommendation letters for your graduate degree program.

Q: I am ready to submit my application but I am missing my recommendation letter(s). What do I do?

A: Do not delay submitting your application because you are waiting for a recommendation letter. You may submit your application before your recommendation letters are received.  Even if your recommendation letters are unexpectedly delayed, you must complete and submit your portion of the application by the deadline to be considered for admission.

Last updated April 29, 2021

 

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