Much like college admission applications, many scholarships will request a couple of letters of recommendation. For many students, this is just one more thing to do on the list of the scholarship application, and they give very little thought to the process of obtaining these. For others, it is can be a source of stress. From whom should you request a letter? What should it say? It may seem like just another requirement, but the letter of recommendation can be a very important part of the decision making process for those responsible for awarding the scholarship money. This is particularly true if you don't have the best GPA in the world. If your grades in high school weren't the best, it doesn't mean you won't get the scholarships, it just means that you can't rely on your GPA when looking for a way to stand out to scholarship judges. A great letter of recommendation, however, can serve that function. Here are a few ideas to help you obtain the best letters possible.
Who should write your letter of recommendation?
Not your parents, or a close family member! Choose someone who can honestly say that they know you well, and can articulate clearly why you deserve the scholarship. If the scholarship you are applying for is related somehow to a hobby you have, an extracurricular activity or religious institution, then try to find someone related. If you are applying for a church scholarship, for example, a letter from your pastor or a youth group leader will often hold more weight than a teacher at school.
What should be included in the letter?
The letter should clearly state your relationship with the person who is writing the letter (your teacher, your soccer coach, your boss at work, etc.). It should list the attributes that the writer admires about you and that illustrate why you deserve the scholarship. If possible, it should list specific events that they have experienced with you that demonstrate your desirable qualities, such as a time when you took initiative or displayed leadership skills.
How do I make sure my letter gets written and sent?
Ask early and follow up often! Requesting the letter as early as possible gives them more time to write a well-thought-out letter. Don't be afraid to follow up with reminders. Remember that if they agree to write you a letter, the people you are asking often have busy lives and lots of obligations. Many scholarships will require that the writer of the letter send it directly to the scholarship judges. If this is the case, ask if the writer would be willing to send you a copy of what was sent. Provide an addressed, stamped envelope for the writer of the letter of recommendation, so that all they need to do is print and sign their letter, and it's ready to mail.
Obtaining great letters of recommendation can make a big difference in how your application is received by judges for scholarship awards. Those writing the recommendation letters to you could be doing you a great service. Send a thank you note to everyone who writes a letter for you. If you are applying to a lot of scholarships, ask if you have the writer's permission to use the letter for future scholarships and if they would be able to modify it slightly to fit other scholarship requests.