Advice Regarding Letters of Recommendation

PTK Scholarships -

Scholars are selected based on their academic achievements, leadership qualities, community engagement, and campus involvement. Based on the recommender's knowledge of the student applicant, Phi Theta Kappa and our panel of judges depend on insight, observations, and candid feedback from the recommender writing the letter.

When applying for the PTK Scholarship Application, student applicants will be required to upload ONE letter of recommendation when prompted. Students should request this letter of recommendation and upload a PDF copy to their application. We understand that asking the student to upload their letter of recommendation could lead to a lack of anonymity, but we hope that this direct upload process fosters an open, honest dialog between the student and recommender. If a recommender does not prefer to provide the letter of recommendation to the student, the recommender may email the letter directly to Phi Theta Kappa's Scholarship team at

The letter of recommendation should be addressed to PTK Scholarship Judging Committee, provided on official letterhead, and signed by the recommender. Student applicants will need to upload their signed letter of recommendation into their scholarship application. Neither PTK staff nor recommenders will have access to student applications.

Recommenders should provide the following information in some format in the letter of recommendation:

  • Name
  • Professional title and organization
  • Academic discipline (optional)
  • Email
  • Phone number

Providing the relationship to the student applicant in the body of the letter helps judges to understand the perspective from which the recommendation was written. Including this relationship could strengthen the recommendation.

**Letters of recommendation that have been requested by the applicant via the Phi Theta Kappa website are not acceptable and should not be submitted.**


Letter of Recommendation

The Letter of Recommendation should speak to leadership and should showcase specific examples of how the student has demonstrated leadership abilities, service involvement, and impact outside the classroom. 

The Letter of Recommendation should be completed by a college faculty member, administrator, dean, or an employer or professional at an organization where the student has volunteered and uploaded to the application by the student.  

Judges expect the following questions to be addressed (in the recommender's own words) in the letter of recommendation: 

  • What is a good description of the applicant’s leadership ability?
  • Does the student display resilience and persistence when challenges or failure are encountered?
  • Does the student seek challenges to grow into a stronger leader?
  • Does the applicant motivate others and serve as a positive role model?
  • Do you have any concerns about this student’s character? If you do have concerns, should we contact you if the student is considered as a finalist for any program?

Including a specific example of how the student has demonstrated servant leadership and articulating the impact of the leadership skills demonstrated by the student will further strengthen the recommendation and impact the judges favorably. 

REGARDING ASSOCIATE DEGREE SEEKING STUDENTS (eligible for programs with a May 15th deadline):  The letter should speak to the student's leadership skills or potential, accomplishments, and characteristics not elicited elsewhere in the student's application. The letter should showcase leadership potential and provide specific examples of leadership abilities or personal characteristics that demonstrate that leadership potential. It is recommended that students provide the recommender with a copy of the completed rough draft application to help provide a stronger reference that includes details that the student may have omitted or provide insights about the student that they have not yet identified.

REGARDING TRANSFER STUDENTS (eligible for programs with a December 3rd deadline):  The student has been asked to provide recommenders with the essay articulating their most significant endeavor since attending college. Specifically, judges review this endeavor for originality, initiative, degree of difficulty, results and benefit to society (lasting impact), and they look to the recommender to provide further knowledge of this endeavor. This example is instrumental in evaluating the student’s leadership abilities and commitment to service. Recommenders should confirm this endeavor occurred and that the results accomplished are correct as indicated by the student. If the applicant does not provide this essay, recommenders should consider sharing this missing piece with the judges. 

Recommenders may also provide any further comments regarding the nature of the endeavor or evidence of originality, initiative, degree of difficulty, and results or benefit to society that were perhaps not articulated by the student. If recommenders would like to clarify the student’s essay, they may include their comments in the letter of recommendation.

This recommendation should specifically address the leadership example the student discussed in the "significant endeavor" essay. Failure to provide a leadership example and commentary on the essay response may make the scholarship application less competitive. To facilitate this, the student has been asked to provide the recommender with a copy of the essay.

REGARDING CAREER-TECH (CTE) STUDENTS planning to enter the workforce immediately upon graduation from the community college:  the recommendation letter should address the skills the student has demonstrated in their classes or trainings. It should also include the potential the student has to make an impact within their chosen career field. Students are encouraged to provide their chosen recommender with a copy of their completed Workforce tab from their scholarship application to assist in preparing the letter of recommendation.


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