Today’s guest blog post is contributed by ScholarPrep! The organization brings students, parents, and counselors together to prepare for the college and scholarship application process. The ScholarPrep Organizer saves time and money by encouraging students to start planning for their future now, helping them to set goals, organize information, and track their progress.
Most scholarship applications require a letter of recommendation, and some will require as many as three! The individuals you will ask to write these letters are called your references. Be aware that securing a great letter of recommendation takes a little planning on your part.
Here are 8 tips to keep in mind:
1. Start thinking early about who could write you a good letter of recommendation. Common examples include teachers, your principal, school counselors, employers, community members, and church leaders. Anyone can act as a reference for you, as long as they are NOT related to you. Did you know that teachers are the most common required authors of recommendation letters? It is important to build relationships with your teachers early to ensure that they will be willing and able to write you a good letter of recommendation.
2. For certain scholarships, some people will serve as better references than others. If you’re applying for a community service-focused scholarship, for instance, it would benefit you to get letters of recommendation from individuals who have interacted with you in this capacity. However, if you are applying for a math scholarship, you will want to ask people who can attest to your mathematical abilities.
3. If you are given a copy of your recommendation letter, be sure to make copies for yourself and also to save a digital version. These saved letters can be used in situations that do not require the recommendation to come directly from the author. Keep in mind, however, that original, signed letters may carry more weight than electronic or copied letters.
4. Come up with a diverse list of potential references, for instance, not a list comprised only of teachers.
5. Provide your recommender with a copy of your resume. Even though you should be choosing people who know you well, it is helpful to remind them of your activities and accomplishments. This will make it easier for them to talk about specific examples of your skills and experience, ensuring a more personal letter. You should also tell them specifically what the recommendation is for, so they can highlight the reasons why you should be chosen.
6. If there are special requirements for the letter, these will be provided to you. Make sure you read them carefully. For example, some committees require that:
- a survey be completed by your recommender, which should then be submitted along with his/her letter;
- the letter to be printed on official letterhead;
- the letter be sealed, and then signed across the seal; and/or that
- the letter to be mailed to them directly from the author.
7. It is a nice gesture to provide your recommender with all the materials that they will need to deliver your recommendation. For example, if the author is instructed to mail the letter directly to the scholarship committee, make sure to provide a stamp and envelope, unless it must be sent in an official envelope. Once again, be sure to read all of the directions!
8. Send a thank you note to everyone who wrote recommendation on your behalf. Send another thank you note if you receive the scholarship, letting the recommender know your happy news and mentioning your appreciation for the role they played in you receiving the award.
- Start early to build relationships with individuals who you may use as references.
- Come up with a list of potential references.
- Choose people who know you well, as most applications will ask how long you have known each other.
- Make sure your references are strong writers and that they are comfortable writing letters of recommendation.
- Ask well in advance of submission deadlines for letters of recommendation. Not only is this courteous, but it also ensures that they will have plenty of time to complete the letter before it is due.
- Don’t expect to be able to read the recommendation before it is submitted. Rather, choose your references wisely because many letters must be sealed!
- Follow the specific requirements given on each application.
- Provide your reference writer with your resume and any other information and materials they will need.
- Thank your references, and send another thank you if/when you receive the scholarship.
Do you have other tips? Tell us in the comments below how you got a great letter of recommendation! Do you need ideas on who you could ask to write you a letter? Ask us!