Letters of Recommendation
When applying for scholarships, you will be required to submit a variety of materials that demonstrate your qualifications. This may include personal information, a list of your awards and accomplishments, scholarship essays, and letters of recommendation. Unlike the other materials in the application, letters of recommendation will not be written by you, but by someone who can attest to your admirable qualities.
Obtaining strong letters of recommendation may be the most persuasive component of your scholarship application to convince a committee of your skills. Anyone can proclaim themselves to be hard working and dedicated in a personal essay; however, when that statement is supported by a testimonial from someone who knows you personally, your credibility increases dramatically.
When considering those who could provide a strong letter of recommendation, think of people who have watched and mentored you through your greatest accomplishments and life experiences. Individuals who have seen you set a goal, work through a project, and achieve your objective would be great candidates for commending your strengths and abilities. If they can describe your admirable qualities in the form of a story, the result will be even more effective.
Possible sources for letters of recommendation:
- Community: heads of organizations with which you have volunteered or done service projects
- Church: presidents, bishops, leaders, advisers, or teachers
- School: principals, counselors, and teachers
- Work: clients, customers, supervisors, managers, or co-workers
- Family and friends: influential or respected individuals
Submitting a strong, compelling letter of recommendation for a scholarship is always better than submitting a mediocre one. Brainstorm to determine the best individuals to request letters from. Remember that even though someone may have had many experiences with you, that person may not be capable of writing a strong letter of recommendation. Seek those who would be willing to write a masterful letter that best demonstrates your admirable qualities.
Give the author of the letter details of your experiences and power statements that he or she should include in the recommendation. Remind this person of stories that illustrate your best qualities and abilities. Give him or her a detailed list of “talking points” to cover in your letter. You may even offer to draft the letter for this person to edit. Give the author ample time to provide you with a good letter of recommendation. You should also provide the writer with an oversized envelope and postage for hard-copy letters. This person is doing you a favor, so remember to thank him or her for the time and effort on your behalf.
It is good to obtain letters of recommendation on applicable letterhead, if possible. You should have electronic letters that you can reuse because you will complete most scholarship applications online. If you receive a hard-copy letter, ask permission to reuse it. Then, scan it so you have an electronic copy. Keep all letters in a safe file for future use.
Because a compelling letter of recommendation is one of the greatest tools in applying for scholarships, always keep in contact with those who may be able to provide them for you. Stay connected to former teachers, employers, and others using professional social networking sites like LinkedIn.com. Update your profile on these sites with your life’s current work and accomplishments. Invest time and interest in those who will, in turn, invest their time and recommendations in your behalf.
For more information about scholarships, see the following: