Your scholarship application is complete. All that's left is your letter of recommendation. You still have plenty of work to do.
Although you don't write the letter, you're responsible for making sure it gets written. And there's a lot you can do to ensure it's a stellar endorsement. Here's how to land the perfect scholarship letter of recommendation...
Who Should Recommend You?
The best recommendations come from people who have worked closely with you and who understand the goals of the award for which you are applying. Your high school teachers and college professors are excellent sources, but also consider previous employers, coaches, clergy members and community leaders.
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Pick someone who can address the award's special criteria or the sponsoring organization's particular interests—someone that would strongly recommend you. For example, the director of the homeless shelter you volunteer at would be a great reference for an award sponsored by a community service group
. Maybe the hiring manager are your community’s public health center has witnesses you volunteer on weekends. People that have seen your good work firsthand are excellent sources for writing letters of recommendation.
It's also important that the letter writer can write well, and in particular, write well about you. Ask them if they can write you a good letter of recommendation, and if not, who they would suggest you should ask. If they are elusive when you ask them to write you a letter, or seem uncomfortable or unenthusiastic, you should ask someone else.
Don't ask a family member for a recommendation. Their praise won't have the credibility to impress the admissions staff or the scholarship committee members.
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When to Ask for a Recommendation Letter
In most cases, you'll ask for recommendations as you need them; for example, when you apply for college or scholarships. But you should also plan ahead. Start by making a list of potential letter-writers, including names, addresses, e-mail and phone numbers.
Next, compile a file of letters before you need them, especially once you've started college. Ask for letters right after you've finished a course with a professor who likes your work. If you wait until you need the letter (maybe two or three years down the line), you risk losing it because the professor doesn't remember you.
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Some colleges can help by maintaining an official, digital filing system for students. When requested, letters from your digital file are sent directly and (if you waive your right to see them) can carry more weight with the judges because they know the recommender was able to express his or her true opinion.
Make It Easy
The people writing your recommendations are doing you a favor, so make it easy for them by being polite and organized. Here's how:
- Provide ample time for the letter to be written. Give at least three weeks advance notice.
- Make a formal request. Schedule an appointment to discuss the recommendation fully or send your teacher an email asking for some time to chat.
- Ask if they would like to see a sample letter. If so, find various types of recommendation letters to share.
- Give your recommender with as much information as possible.
This includes items and resources like:
Your correct contact information (your full name as it appears on the application, address, email and phone number).
A list of extracurricular activities
you’re involved in with dates and titles.
A recent cover letter
or a brag sheet
listing recent achievements.
Reminders of your past work experiences and accomplishments with your recommender.
Your best works (a copy of an essay or class project, etc.).
Share a copy of your completed scholarship application/essay with your recommender for easy reference and correct deadline information.
Provide two copies of any forms the recommender is to fill out (for a "rough draft" and a "final draft").
The full title and description of the award and the correct name, title and mailing address of the recipient.
Any scholarship-provider instructions on how the letters should be handled, formatted or addressed.
Helpful Tip: If you're concerned that your recommender has forgotten your letter, gracefully remind them by asking if they need more information.
Once your letter's been sent, be sure to send a personalized thank-you note to your recommender. A tangible thank you note is a great idea; people don’t get many of these delivered to their mailboxes, so this act will certainly standout.
You can also look into sending a personalized email thank you card. Punchbowl
and Greetings Island
have free templates you can choose from.
It's a lot to keep in mind, but all this work should produce a great letter of recommendation and hopefully help you win the scholarship
. Now that the hardest part is done, you can relax and begin applying for more scholarships