Letters of Recommendation
In addition to the usual scholarship application, many providers also require students to submit at least one letter of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are letters written by others that serve to recommend you for something – in this case, a scholarship.
First of all, you need to decide who you’d like to ask to write a recommendation for you. Sometimes scholarship providers specify who they’d like your letters to be written by. In that case, be sure to follow those guidelines. If, however, they do not specify, then you are free to choose whoever you’d like. Don’t choose just anyone though – try to choose someone who knows you well enough to be able to provide a positive evaluation of you and give examples to support their points. Teachers are often good choices because you interact with them frequently and they have a good sense of your academic strengths, which is important when applying for a scholarship. Also consider asking academic or extracurricular leaders who are familiar with you and your abilities, such as your club or group leader, coach, band director, or guidance counselor. Those you interact with outside of school can serve as good character references, such as your religious leader, community service leader, or boss.
Once you’ve chosen who you’d like to ask, be sure to start the process early. Writing a letter of recommendation is neither the easiest nor quickest thing to do. Approach your chosen person as early as possible. They are doing you a huge favor, and the least you can do is give them enough time to write the letter for you. When you approach them, ask them politely and formally. Do not ask them via email. When you actually ask them, do not ask if they can write a letter for you; rather ask if they feel they are able to write one for you. This is an important distinction and a respectful way to ask. This way also makes it easier for them to decline if they do not feel able or comfortable. If they do say no, then do not push them or ask any further. Thank them for their time and pursue another choice.
If they agree to write a letter for you, be sure to tell them the deadline so they can plan appropriately. Also make sure they understand how the letter is to be delivered. Some scholarship providers require that letters of recommendation be included with the rest of the scholarship application materials, in which case the writer would give the finished letter to you. And some providers require the letter to be sent directly from the writer. If the writer needs to send it, provide them with an envelope and postage for their convenience.
While you’re waiting for your letter, check in with the writer every so often and give them a friendly reminder. Take care though not to check in so often that you become bothersome. Also take the time to make sure the rest of the scholarship application materials are completed and ready to go. That way, once your letter is complete, you can submit your application right away.
After all your scholarship application materials have been submitted, don’t forget to express your gratitude. Write a thank-you note to the person who wrote your letter. Thank them for the recommendation and for their time. If you actually win the scholarship, follow up once again with the person who wrote your letter. Most likely, they will be very pleased to hear that you won. Thank them again for the recommendation and for helping you win a scholarship. Briefly mention how the scholarship will help you in your education and future career.
Obtaining a letter of recommendation can be a very intimidating task for some. But if you gather up your courage and follow these tips, you’re sure to end up with a glowing recommendation that would impress any scholarship committee.