Once you have submitted your scholarship essay and application, you need to focus on organizing a scholarship recommendation letter. Although you don’t write the letter yourself, it is your responsibility to ensure that it is written, and written well.
From choosing the right person to write the letter, to ensuring the content supports and helps your application, there are many ways you can ensure that you get the best recommendation letter possible. It must cover essential elements such as your academic achievements and abilities, and give a good picture of you as a well-rounded student who would be an asset to the institution.
Who to Ask for a Scholarship Recommendation Letter
A letter of recommendation is best sought from a person with whom you have a good professional or academic relationship. Consider asking someone who knows you well so that they can personalize the letter and talk about you as a person in detail.
Many students ask teachers or professors to write their letter of recommendation. Professors and teachers can discuss your academic and intellectual abilities, your research experience and goals for the future. It is recommended that you ask a teacher or professor who knows you very well and, ideally, who is from the field of study in which you hope to study.
Those working in academic roles are also likely to better understand the application process and your suitability and readiness for the program. They often, therefore, better address the criteria or interests of the funding organization.
However, other professionals such as community leaders, clergy, previous employers and coaches are also good options to ask for this task. It is important to consider the funding organization, and its focus and priorities before selecting a referee.
For instance, if you are making an application for a scholarship from a community group, then a representative from the charity for whom you did community service volunteering work is likely to be the best person to ask.
When deciding on the best person within that organization to ask, you may think of asking your mentor. However, a more powerful recommendation would come from a manager or director in the company. If there is a person in such a role who knows you well enough and can comment on your work, personality and attitude with the first-hand experience, this is a good person to ask.
Recommendations from family members are not recommended. Unfortunately, these hold little credibility with funding organizations.
If you are struggling to think of anyone you know who could provide such a recommendation, consider the following tips ahead of applying for that scholarship:
- Get involved in local volunteering opportunities
- Take classes with the same teacher or professor who you would like to write a recommendation for you
- Join clubs or activities in your local area and take on additional responsibilities within these
- Involve yourself in additional research and projects at school/college
- Meet regularly with teachers or professors that you may wish to write your letter to discuss your academic work, research or your future aspirations
Just be sure to approach these situations with the qualities you would want to be written about in your letter of recommendation!
When and How to Ask for the Letter of Recommendation
Once you have decided on the best person to write the letter, you have to think carefully about when and how to ask them. It is important to remember that even if you ask, people may say no if they don’t feel they know you well enough, if they are overwhelmed with work, or if they think that they wouldn’t be able to write a letter well. So, you need to be prepared with other options.
The first step is to plan ahead. Think of several different people who you could ask to write the letter when the time arises. Include contact details as well as names, in case it is a while before you will need to request the letter.
An additional consideration is to ask for recommendation letters as you go. If you are finishing a course with a professor you have worked closely with and have a good relationship with, it is worth asking for a letter of recommendation there and then – before they have time to forget about you!
When requesting the letter, remember that you are asking this person to do you a favour. Be courteous and gracious, and be sure to give them plenty of notice so that they are not rushed.
Here is a compilation of top tips for requesting a scholarship recommendation letter:
- Request the letter as early as possible. Ideally, you should contact the individual as soon as you receive the request for the recommendation letter. If you give very little notice, the letter is going to be rushed and may not convey the key messages as well as it could have done.
- Check that the person writing the recommendation letter feels comfortable writing it. If the letter of recommendation is written by someone who is struggling to say anything about you, it is going to end up sounding generic and doing nothing to support your application. Ask the individual early on if they feel that they know you and your work well enough to write the letter. If they don’t, move on to another individual on your list.
- Meet with the writer before they write the letter. This way, you can talk more specifically about the programme of study, the program and funding organization, your relevant experiences, and why you want this application . All of this will help the writer to align with the information in your essay and application. However, you shouldn’t be asking this person to include specific information – just catching them up on what you have done!
- Provide the individual with as much information as possible. This should include the name of the program, the forms they must fill out (it is best to provide 2 copies of each form in case of mistakes), your full name and contact details, a copy of your application and essay, and all of the information regarding the content requirements and deadline for the letter.
If it is nearing the deadline and you have not heard from the individual that they have submitted your recommendation letter, it is worth getting in touch with a polite prompt, such as asking if they require any additional information from you.
Writing a quality letter of recommendation is not an easy task – be sure to send a follow-up thank you letter!