Teachers and Counselors

A Flinn Scholar meets with one of her most important faculty mentors.
About the Flinn Scholarship recommendation

In addition to materials submitted by the student, the Flinn Scholarship application requires:

Two teacher recommendations;
A report from the high-school academic counselor.

Teachers should accept a request to provide a recommendation for the student if they know the student well enough to respond to the following questions:

In every high school, there are students who excel academically, inspire peers to get involved, engage in meaningful service, and positively impact their community. Based on your direct observation, what makes this student exceptional? (300 words max)

Provide an example of this student’s intellectual curiosity and growth. (300 words max)

• Provide an example of this student’s ability to influence, empower, and inspire others. (300 words max)

Counselors will complete a fairly typical report about the student and the school, and be invited—only if they know the student well enough—to respond to the following questions:

In every high school, there are students who excel academically, inspire peers to get involved, engage in meaningful service, and positively impact their community. What makes this student exceptional? (300 words max)

Please share your experience regarding this student’s integrity, interpersonal skills, and self awareness. (300 words max)

Provide an example of this student’s ability to influence, empower, and inspire others. (300 words max)

We encourage counselors and teachers to sit down with the student to discuss the application, review a copy of the student’s work, and talk about additional information that could be shared. This teamwork produces a more cohesive and effective application package.

Counselors have considerable freedom in their responses to the questions above, including the option to integrate quotes from others who know the student well, such as teachers not writing recommendations for the student, coaches, or civic leaders.

Counselor recommendations can also discuss honors, awards, or experiences the student could only mention briefly in the application.

Below are tips for writing teacher and counselor recommendations, as well as FAQs about the Flinn Scholarship Program and submitting an application.

2019 Flinn Scholars Application Flyer


Tips for Teachers
  • Talk with your Students

    In your initial conversation with students who request recommendations, ask for a description of the scholarship, its criteria, and the reason the students have asked you to write a recommendation. (Are they asking because they earned a high grade in your course, or because they successfully confronted course material that did not come easily for them? From their perspective, is there a distinctive role you have played in their development and future?)

    Your recommendations should establish the duration and nature of your relationship with each student. Consider whether you have seen these students in multiple contexts and/or outside of the classroom: Ask the students if there are episodes in their lives, or specific projects you supervised or observed that they hope you will address in your recommendation.

  • Complete the Portrait

    You see your students daily and can write with authority about how they think and act in your classroom throughout the year. You can assess their intellectual and personal growth, insights, and leadership, as reflected in class discussions, laboratory experiments, or written work.

    How do they approach questions? What problem-solving strategies do they use? How do they take initiative? How do they demonstrate love of learning? What are their passions, and how do they pursue them? How do they share enthusiasm for ideas with their peers and with you? Answers to such questions are often most effectively conveyed by specific stories that catch readers’ attention.

    Avoid exaggerating claims for students’ accomplishment or ranking among students you have taught throughout your career. Committees do notice when a teacher describes multiple students as “The single best I have encountered in 20 years.” Such claims essentially negate the value of that person’s recommendations for all of their students.

    If you can, we encourage you to meet with the other teacher and the counselor who are joining you in recommending a particular student. Convening as a team allows the three of you to coordinate efforts, making sure that each offers different perspectives and illustrations of the student’s traits. We should learn something distinct from what each of you has to say.

  • Declining to Recommend
    Do not agree to write a recommendation if you have reservations about a student’s performance or character. In such a case, we suggest that you inform the student of the depth of your concerns and give the student an opportunity to choose another recommender. You may also decline a request if the student offers inadequate advance notice. (Two weeks is usually considered acceptable; three, preferable.)
Tips for Counselors
  • Orient the Reviewers of the Application

    Your recommendation helps reviewers understand your students’ environment. We want to learn how effectively and creatively students have used the resources available at their school and in their community, and how they have exercised initiative by making new opportunities for learning and discovery. This exposition helps us see what features in students’ learning environments are most important to them and helps us account for variations in resource bases at different schools. Help us understand your school’s culture, structure and programs: Is volunteer service expected or required? Are certain awards decided by faculty or by students’ peers? Was an activity already established or was it launched by the student about whom you’re writing?

    Where relevant programs, activities, and awards are unique to your school or unique in terms of logistical constraints, please explain. For instance, if one student did not to pursue the IB diploma because the courses conflicted with those in the music program to which she was committed, help us understand that choice.

  • Assess Progress and Achievement

    When possible, use your recommendation to indicate the progress and growth of your student over time. Avoid exaggerating claims for the student’s accomplishment or ranking in the roster of students you have encountered throughout your career. Committees do notice when a counselor describes multiple students as “The single best I have encountered in 20 years.” You do not have to compare your candidates to each other or rank individual students, especially if you are writing for more than one in a given application cycle.

  • Complete the Portrait

    Your recommendations can describe distinctive contributions your students make to the school and/or civic community—showing how your students treat education as a public benefit and a private good. Given the range of students you see, you are well-positioned to clarify students’ unique records. For example, many students may state that they have worked on campus clothing drives; which one managed a district-wide donation competition among schools? Many students start clubs; which one has ensured that a club will continue after graduation and make a lasting contribution to the community?

    You also may incorporate in your recommendation remarks from faculty other than those your students have asked for teacher recommendations: from coaches, civic leaders, and others who know your students outside purely academic settings.

    If you can, we encourage you to meet with the two teachers who are joining you in recommending a particular student. Convening as a team allows the three of you to coordinate efforts, making sure that each offers different perspectives and illustrations of the student’s traits. We should learn something distinct from what each of you has to say.

  • Declining to Provide a Recommendation

    It is acceptable to complete the counselor report but decline to submit responses to the recommendation questions on a student’s behalf. We do not expect you to provide examples of character and leadership if you do not know the student well.

    If you have serious reservations about a student’s performance or character, we suggest that you inform the student of the depth of your concerns. You may also decline a request for a counselor report if the student offers inadequate advance notice. (Two weeks is usually considered acceptable; three, preferable.) Remember, though: The Flinn Scholarship Program requires a counselor report; your refusal essentially disqualifies a student from applying, a decision we believe should be made with great forethought.

FAQs for Teachers and Counselors
  • How are Flinn Scholars chosen?

    Competition is more rigorous for the Flinn Scholarship than for even the most selective colleges and universities. We often receive more than 850 applications for 20 scholarships.

    Merit, demonstrated by academic and personal achievement, is the only factor in selection; financial need is not a consideration. Flinn Scholars come from every corner of Arizona, and upon arrival at the university, they pursue studies in every discipline. There is no blueprint for a Flinn Scholar. (A list of baseline criteria is posted on our Requirements page.)

    Our reviewers—community leaders and Flinn Scholar alumni—examine applicants’ academic achievement, leadership and involvement, service to the community, ability to communicate, and personal qualities. Each of these factors contribute to a holistic picture that an applicant presents to us.

    From all applicants, reviewers select a group of Semifinalists for an initial interview at the Flinn Foundation. Following this interview, 40 applicants are named Finalists and invited to interview with the Selection Committee, comprised of state leaders in various fields. The Selection Committee recommends a cohort of Flinn Scholars to the Foundation’s Board of Directors. All finalists are notified of their status by late March, and a public announcement is made in April.

  • What does the Flinn Scholarship provide?
    Total value of the Flinn Scholarship exceeds $120,000. In addition to an award by the university covering the cost of tuition and mandatory fees for eight semesters, the scholarship provides funding for housing and meals, study abroad, and a professional internship. But the award’s direct monetary value is only the beginning of the program’s benefits.
  • Why should my best students apply for a Flinn Scholarship?

    Flinn Scholars have a competitive edge. Over the course of four years, they routinely compile extraordinary records of graduate-level coursework and published research. By graduation day, they have become globally-traveled leaders wielding influence in the state, nation, and world. They convey a serious sense of purpose and goals. Every year, Scholars win prestigious fellowships such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, Gates Cambridge, Churchill, Goldwater, Truman, and Udall, and alumni regularly attend the nation’s top graduate schools, often with full scholarships.

    Many Scholars say the most important aspect of the program is joining a community of similarly motivated students of diverse interests. They form long-lasting friendships within an unparalleled network of talented future leaders in every field you can imagine.

  • How do I submit recommendations for my students?

    During the online application process, your students will submit your email address as part of their applications. You will receive, via email, instructions on how to submit your recommendation online. Once submitted, your recommendations are confidential during and after our selection process. In addition, guidance counselors must upload a copy of applicants’ transcripts. We ask that you ensure that your recommendation, including the transcript, is submitted to us by the deadline. Incomplete or late applications may not be reviewed.

  • What feedback on the application process or interview can my student expect?

    Each spring, we conduct information sessions about the Flinn Scholarship for students, and families, including guidance for maximizing educational opportunities during high school to become viable candidates for a wide range of competitive programs and awards.

    We do not provide information regarding an applicant’s performance to applicants, their families, or their teachers and counselors, during or after our selection process. All materials that applicants submit, including teacher and counselor recommendations, and notes of reviewers and interviewers, remain confidential.