Letter of Recommendation for Scholarship Money: 10 Keys
Usually, award applications require a letter of recommendation for scholarship consideration, or even two or three. If you want to get more money for college, you apply for scholarships, right?
1. Get Started Early
This one goes first since you will need some time to pull things together. If you don’t have much time, don’t fret, you can make time up in a few ways I’ll show below. Also, if you don’t have much time right now to get the letter and application done, at least you will have a head start on your next application.
Remember, the more you apply for scholarships, the better you get at it and the more you can win. Apply often.
2. Who to Ask
If you’ve read my sample scholarship letter of recommendation (link), you know you need to give this some thought. Don’t ask just anyone. Take a few minutes at least and think of who you might ask. Try to avoid relatives unless you have a very good reason, such as a job at a family business.
Some others to consider: past teachers, guidance counselors, coaches, a leader at a volunteer organization where you have worked including church, club sponsors, and coworkers.
A recommendation doesn’t have to come from a lifelong supervisor. If you had a great teacher last year, that’s fine. Were you a club member and worked hard on a particular activity? Ask the president or leader of that activity.
You do want the letter to be sincere and from the best references you have, of course. Keep that in mind when you ask for recommendations.
3. Ask for a Recommendation Politely
Politely doesn’t mean just say please. Give the person you ask the chance to say no. You can do this by asking in a note or in a friendly e-mail. Or if you can only do it in person, you might want to ask if they will have the time to write you a letter. This gives them a chance to be busy, but not have to reject you outright.
Why ask this way? Just in case their opinion of you isn’t as high as you think. Perhaps you remember getting an A in their class, but they remember giving you a D on one test. Getting a letter of recommendation from a bad reference won’t get you the scholarship.
4. Provide a Sample Letter of Recommendation
No question, providing a sample letter of recommendation for scholarship applications will ease the writing. In general, give a reference a 1 page letter that highlights your good points – leave out your problems unless you have overcome them and can show that you met the challenge and improved in some way.
Don’t try to fudge the truth, by the way. This can backfire big time. Like, saying you just won the US open. Or that you have a great shot at a Heisman. These things have a way of coming back.
And make sure you have someone check your grammar and spelling.
5. Suggest a Topic or Trait
To give your reference some help, you can suggest a topic or what you would like them to highlight. For instance, if you ask a coach for a letter, you could ask them to highlight that you worked hard on a particular skill – high diving, calf roping, or whatever the skill may be.
This helps by putting your reference at ease with something they know about you personally, and it may help with the scholarship. Perhaps you need a letter of recommendation for scholarship in a particular subject – your reference could point out your skills and accomplishments in that area.
6. Follow Up
Everyone has busy lives. Don’t be surprised if your letter doesn’t get written right away. Gently follow up with the people writing for you, to remind them that you need the letter. You might even have a back-up person ready if your letters don't come through.
7. Get a Copy
Keeping a copy can help you in the future – you may be able to use these at other times. Some scholarships require that your reference send the letters directly, others won’t care.
When you have a file, you can also create better sample letters for future references to use. Never copy a letter verbatim, but a reference may give you more ideas for how great you are!
8. Say Thank You
Always thank your reference. You can send them a note or give them a personal call. Most will likely want to know what happens with the scholarship – did you get it? What else will you apply for, and so on.
If you need another letter in the future, you will have left a good impression.
When you ask a coworker for a letter, you may also want to offer one in return. For instance, if you were a student body officer in college, you might write one for another officer – just remember to be accurate and honest. Only write a recommendation if you can truthfully recommend someone.
You’ll get better at this process as you repeat it and complete each application. Really, getting a letter of recommendation for scholarship applications happens all the time and teachers, coaches, supervisors and so on may have many requests. They often feel more comfortable with this process than you do. Don’t sweat it, just start asking.
11. One more…
I know I say this all the time, but here goes: repeat again!
Look at my page on how to get scholarships , but basically, the more awards you apply for, the better your chances of winning. You have to fill out all the paperwork right and get it in on time, but in general, more applications, more money.
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