Tips for Scoring Scholarship Recommendation Letters

When applying for scholarships that require letters of recommendation, it's important to make sure you're methodical with your portion of the application. Check out our quick tips.


Originally Posted: Jun 1, 2011
Last Updated: Oct 25, 2016

When applying for scholarships that require letters of recommendation, it's important to make sure you're as methodical as you are with your portion of the application. Check out our quick tips.

Many scholarships require you to submit at least one recommendation letter with your application. Just as you’ve been strategic in choosing which scholarships to apply for, you also need to be methodical in selecting those you wish to write your recommendations. Here are some quick tips to make the process easier.

Familiarity matters more than titles

Some prospective scholarship recipients make the mistake of choosing a recommender they may not know well, picking them solely because they believe the individual's title will be impressive to the scholarship selection committee. You’re much better off choosing someone you know well, particularly a teacher you’ve worked closely with who can pinpoint your unique abilities. A glowing recommendation from a teacher trumps a lackluster recommendation from someone “higher up” every time.

Arrange an appointment

Presumably you think the person from whom you’re soliciting the letter of recommendation will be able to paint an accurate, positive picture of you, but you also need to present yourself in a positive light to your prospective recommender before you request their help. Don’t spring the request on them after class or in the hallway at lunch. Set up an appointment with them to discuss the scholarship and why you feel you are deserving of it. You will come off as a professional and reinforce to your recommender why you deserve the scholarship.

Make sure they’re capable of writing the recommendation

You think you have a good idea who you want to write your scholarship recommendation. The next step is to make sure said person is able to do the job for you. Ask them if they have the time (you’ll want to give them at least a month to complete it) and make sure they feel that they’ll be able to say a lot of positive things about you in the letter. Finally, it’s also important to be certain that your recommender can write well. Nothing kills a scholarship recommendation letter like poor wording and grammar mistakes. Professors are usually safe bets, and managers generally need to possess good communication skills.

Make your recommender’s life easier

Once you’ve settled on who will write your recommendation, be sure to provide them with everything they need to help you out, including extra copies of the application and bullet points related to your accomplishments that you’d like them to include in the letter. You also need to make sure they understand all of the requirements of the scholarship application and why you are applying for it in particular.

Requesting a letter of recommendation is not an exact science, but the tips above should serve as a helpful guide. Just like with every other step in the scholarship search process, knowing how to best solicit a letter of recommendation will only help you in the long run. 

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