Writing a Recommendation for the British Marshall Scholarship

Approximately 40 Marshall Scholarships are awarded each year to "...intellectually distinguished young Americans who will one day become leaders, opinion formers and decision makers in their own country..."  Applicants must demonstrate exceptional academic ability, mature character, and the capacity to play an active part in the life of a UK university.  In addition to a 1000 word personal essay and a shorter but important proposed program of study, applications require recommendation letters from four persons, at least two of whom must be academics.  Three must be in the U.S.  If you do not know the students well enough to write a detailed letter that emphasizes his or her achievements while also reflecting warm regard, or if you cannot write in strong support, please encourage him or her to seek another reference.

 Applicants should provide copies of their draft personal essays and proposed academic program to each prospective recommender, and must work particularly closely with the individual designated as the Preferred Reference, whose letter carries greatest weight and is expected to be a detailed discussion of academic performance and potential.

 Criteria for the Scholarship:

  • Distinction of intellect and character as evidenced by both academic attainments and other activities and achievements
  •  Demonstrated strength in the major field, and adequate preparation for the proposed course of study
  • Ability to participate actively in the UK university, and potential to make a significant contribution in the US

Your letter should:

  • Corroborate the applicant's own assessment of readiness to undertake the proposed course of study
  • Explain why the student stands out above others, and why you have confidence in the student's personal and professional promise
  • Include detail about your personal connection with the student, and his or her contribution to the relationship
  • Present your assessment of the student's character, and what you know about the esteem in which others hold this student
  • Be warm, concrete, frank, and truthful

Other considerations:

It is helpful if the recommender can say something specific about the appropriateness of the chosen U.K. academic programs, and why the applicant should study in the U.K. 

NB: Marshall letters are submitted online, and are space-limited to 1000 characters (approximately two pages).

The Fellowships Office (dmgagnon@amherst.edu) is available to answer any questions you may have about writing this letter.


These notes incorporate information from the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission and from Joe Schall, "Writing Recommendation Letters"  (Pennsylvania State University 1997).

Converse Hall

Office of Fellowships
213 Converse Hall
Amherst College
Amherst, MA  01002

Fax. 413-542-8555

Denise Murphy Gagnon
Director of Fellowship Advising

Suzanne Fogel Spencer
Fellowships Coordinator