There’s no doubt that scholarships can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on your college tuition. So, when you start applying for scholarships, start thinking about the most valuable players in your life. Teachers, counselors, mentors, coaches, religious leaders, volunteer coordinators, and even supervisors at work have seen you in action.
These people can be the key to your success in helping you earn a scholarship. They know you well, and have seen you at your best (and maybe, even your worst).
With that in mind, you want to make sure each person you ask to write a recommendation letter is the right fit for the scholarship. If you are applying for a math scholarship, you want to ask a math teacher to write that letter for you since they know your strengths in that area.
How to get a recommendation letter for your scholarship the right way.
If at all possible, ask them in person.
Yes, in this day and age, asking for things in an email is the norm for anything. This is different, though. A scholarship recommendation letter is a personal request, and common etiquette says you should ask for this in person. If you are unable to meet with them in person, asking for their help in a telephone call is the next best thing.
Email can be used to follow up after an in-person conversation. However, it should be your last resort when it comes to asking for a letter of recommendation for a scholarship application.
There’s strength in numbers.
The Scholarship and Financial Aid department of the University of California – Davis advises students that want to apply for prestigious scholarships to get numerous letters. For example, if a scholarship requires a minimum of 3-4 letters, you should ask 8 different people to write for you. This will allow you to choose the best ones for your application.
Some people even suggest asking one person to write one letter on your behalf, and give you several copies that you can have on hand for multiple scholarship applications. This can be beneficial, but those letters might not be tailored specifically to scholarships. So, if you go this route, be cautious about having something too general. You might be better off asking a reference for additional specific letters of recommendation when you apply for them through the year.
Timing is everything.
Your scholarship application is due in two months, and you’re dragging your feet on asking your teacher to write that letter of recommendation for you. You keep putting it off, and figure a few days should be enough time, right?
That won’t work, and will likely backfire.
You know when your deadline is when you decide to apply for a scholarship. Start out by deciding who you would like to write the letter, and get that ball going immediately. Don’t put the person writing your recommendation in a time crunch. It’s rude, and they’re less likely to write a thoughtful, quality letter if they feel rushed. Many different sources suggest a range of 3-6 weeks.
Once you’ve asked – and time is narrowing down, feel free to contact them to follow up on your recommendation letter.
You’ve asked for a recommendation. Now what?
Make it easy for your reference.
According to Scholarships.com, once you have politely asked the person to write a recommendation letter for your scholarship application, you should give them an oversized envelope and stamps so they can mail it for you. This shows that you put the time and effort into preparing for them to do this for you, which helps reflect your own responsibility.
Of course, this only applies if the application requires a paper letter.
Some schools, such as Arizona State University, now do online submissions instead of hard copy letters of recommendation for scholarships. In this case, the school will send an email to the reference who will write the letter, which gives them access to electronically submit the recommendation for you. If your scholarship requires online submissions for this, only give the email address after you have asked your reference to write a letter. Then, let them know to expect an email so they can be prepared.
Give your reference some direction on your application.
Make sure they know what type of scholarship you are applying for, and the requirements you need to meet for it. This way, they’ll know how to discuss your strengths in that particular area.
Don’t leave them guessing.
Also, feel free to give your recommender a list of your accomplishments, so they can refer to that when they are writing.
Don’t forget the most important part of etiquette for your recommendation letter.
Saying “thank you” is such a big part of this entire process. We learned this as toddlers, and it extends well past college and professional life. If someone took their time to write a letter to help you earn scholarship money, the least you can do is thank them.
Be sure to tell them thank you when asking for their help at the beginning of the process. Once you receive the recommendation letter for your scholarship application, sending a handwritten card, or even a letter, speaks volumes about your appreciation for them. They will remember that.
Better yet, if you intend on asking the writer for additional letters through the year, they’re more likely to help you again if they know how much you appreciate their time and effort!