There are numerous scholarships out there for students entering college, and each has its own special set of guidelines. Letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors, and other important people in a student’s life can serve as powerful testaments to a student’s past and future achievements.
As an English teacher and college counselor, I put a lot of time into crafting personalized letters of recommendation for students applying to scholarships. In this article, I discuss what exactly should go into an effective recommendation letter, along with the importance of tailoring your letter to the scholarship at hand.
So how exactly should recommenders frame their letters to best help their students win a scholarship? And what purpose do reference letters serve as scholarship committees sift through applications?
5 Way to Getting Letters of Recommendation
- Find people who know your work. Most scholarship applications will ask for at least one letter of recommendation. The letter can come from a teacher, employer, or other person familiar with your work. The letter should focus on your work, grades, community service, talents, and so on.
A. Don’t choose a relative for this role. Friends usually won’t work either. However, a volunteer coordinator, your pastor, or another figure in your community who knows you could work.
- Ask the person if he or she will write a letter on your behalf. Don’t assume that your teacher or other referee will write you a letter. You must ask to make sure that he or she is familiar with your work and has the time to write a letter for you.
A. Meet in person to ask about a letter. This is a more personalized approach than an email and it will reflect positively on you. Bring a copy of your resume or the work you did in his or her class to help this person remember your accomplishments. This is especially important if you have not worked with this person in a while.
B. If the person says no, try not to take it personally. It’s better to have someone who can write you a good letter than someone who writes a vague, impersonal letter.
- Give your application materials to your referee well in advance. You want to make the letter-writing process as easy as possible for your referees. Give them any forms they need to fill out as early as possible. Provide them with a copy of your personal statement or essay as well, if the application calls for one. This will help them draft a letter that supports the statements you made in your application.
A. Be sure to give your referees a self-addressed stamped envelope. Many scholarships ask that your referees mail their letters to the organization rather than giving them to you. It’s impolite to expect your referees to pay to send their letters.
- Send a reminder. As you get closer to the application deadline, send a reminder to your referee about writing a letter. Don’t remind them every day, but a reminder at least a week ahead of the deadline is a good idea. its really work for to try.
- Send a thank you note afterwards. Regardless of whether you win the scholarship or not, send a handwritten thank you note to each of your referees. They deserve thanks for the time they took to write on your behalf and thanking them for that time will make it more likely that they will do it for you again.