Letters of Recommendation

Truman applicants are required to provide three letters of recommendation in addition to the Institutional Nomination letter.  Each of the letters should address one of our selection criteria, but it is acceptable for a letter to discuss more than one criteria.

  1. Leadership Abilities and Potential:  This letter should confirm the experience described in Question 7 (specific example of your leadership).  The letter writer need not have witnessed the example first hand, but they should be able to discuss the example and how it fits within the context of the student's leadership.
  2. Commitment to a Career in Public Service:  This letter should confirm the experience described in Question 8 (recent, satisfying public service activity).  The letter writer need not have witnessed the activity first hand, but they should be able to discuss the example and how it fits within the context the student's commitment to a career in public service.
  3. Intellect and Prospects for Continuing Academic Success:  This letter should discuss the student's overall academic background in context of the student's future plans for career and graduate school (Questions 11 to 13).  It is recommended, though not required, that the writer have taught the student at some point.

General Advice on Selecting Recommenders:

  • We are unmoved by generic letters from people with recognizable names.  A well-written letter with specifics from an Associate Professor is always better than a letter from a big-name tenured professor who only saw you in a large introductory class setting.
  • Letters do not need to all come from faculty members or be written in an academic style.  It is quite welcome, and often preferred, to have non-university personnel write letters to discuss a candidate's leadership or service.
  • Recommenders should have had recent contact with the student.  Letters from high school are rarely persuasive.
  • Provide recommenders with draft copies of the relevant essays.  If that is not possible, please provide recommenders a resume.  Make sure the letter writer understands the main points you want them to convey.  It is always disappointing when a letter fails to mention things that are clearly significant to the applicant.
  • Request the letter as early as possible and be clear about when the letter is needed and to whom it should be sent.

Letters should be requested by the student and delivered to the Advisor. The Advisor is responsible for uploading the supplemental materials into our system. Please work together to ensure our deadline is met.  You may include the Reference Request Forms if you wish, but you are not required to do so. You are free to use your own request forms or simply ask the recommender to include a subject line at the top of their letter indicating which category they are addressing.

Advisors:  Additional questions about letters of recommendation - both in terms of technical problems or for guidance on appropriate recommenders - can be addressed to Tara Yglesias.


For Letter Writers:

Thank you for helping someone with their Truman application! You may want to review our general requirements before getting started. A few pieces of advice regarding letters for our program:

  • Each of an applicant's three letters should address one of the three criteria (leadership, commitment to a career in public service, likelihood of academic success). Check with your applicant to find out which of these criteria you should address.
  • While you should focus on your assigned criteria, it is perfectly acceptable to include information about other facets of the candidate's leadership, service or academics.
  • The applicants should either provide you a copy of the essay they are submitting that corresponds to your criteria or they should be explicit in what they want you to cover. Keep in mind that applicants have very limited space in the application. Recommenders are uniquely suited to provide information that the applicant simply lacks space for. If you can provide additional context or detail for their essay, that would be extremely helpful to our selectors.
  • The letter can include information and assessments from others. If, for example, you did not directly witness the activity the applicant discusses in their essay, it is fine to write about things you have heard from others who did observe the activity or discuss activities that you observed where the applicant showed similar skills.
  • However, if you feel that someone else might  be better suited to write the letter, discuss this with the applicant, their Advisor or both. It is much better for the applicant to have a stronger letter if one is available. You can still support the student by reviewing drafts, serving on a practice interview or writing a later recommendation for graduate school.
  • Our selectors generally prefer letters that rely on details rather than adjectives. Our "outstanding" may not be the same but "mobilized more than 100 students to volunteer on Saturday morning" is the same for everyone.
  • Please try to limit the letter to two pages or fewer. Letters that are much longer than two pages risk not being read thoroughly.
  • Letters should ideally be addressed to the Truman Selection Committee.

Nervous about the policy proposal?

Learn more about what we look for and how best to craft a persuasive policy proposal.

Policy Proposal