People who give away college scholarships want to know about you and the great things you’ve done. They can learn about you through the recommendations of folks you know. Follow these tips to secure recommendations that demonstrate why you deserve scholarship money.
Who might recommend me?
Ask any “authority” who has observed you and has good things to say about you and your work. It helps that they are articulate and write well. Consider asking teachers, as well as coaches, guidance counselors, sponsors of clubs or organizations in which you’ve participated, employers or supervisors, pastors, youth group leaders or leaders of volunteer groups with whom you’ve served.
Is there anyone I should avoid asking?
Avoid asking family members and relatives. Also, avoid asking people who have not worked closely with you. They will struggle to find something to say, and the results probably won’t help you.
How many recommenders do I need?
Seek multiple recommenders because different people see you in a different light. If you apply for a scholarship that focuses on academic achievement, your guidance counselor's glowing words about your membership in the National Society of High School Scholars may have more appeal than your coach's mention of your free-throw skills as reported in USA Today High School Sports, In some cases, you may need both.
Isn't one letter of recommendation just as good as the next?
Not really. Persuding others involves a measure of emotional appeal without going overboard. You will discover that some recommenders are better at creating effective word pictures that help scholarship funders imagine you as the recipient of their awards. Your chances of projecting the perfect image increase with the number of recommendations you seek. You may not use all of the recommendations you collect. You will find that some serve your purposes better than others.
What can I do to ensure the recommendations I receive appeal to scholarship providers?
Supply each person you ask with informattion that guides them in the right direction. Putting it in writing, either on paper or in an email, gives them something to reference as they compose their thoughts. Include these items:
- Clear instructions about how to submit the recommendation. Some scholarship applications require a letter; others require recommenders to fill out a form and use a rating scale provided.
- The name of the scholarship for which you’ve applied.
- The scholarship's focus, like community service, academic achievement or leadership. Some scholarships focus on more than one area.
- The date you need it by in order to meet your deadline. Keep in mind that your deadline is not necessarily the deadline of the scholarship application. Even though the application deadline may be December, you may want to submit your application as soon as application materials are available in August. Give your recommenders about two weeks to compose a recommendation.
- A reminder of what this recommender has seen and can write about. For example, if you've asked a teacher to recommend you for a scholarship that focuses on teamwork and a collaborative spirit, remind her of the time she sponsored your class in building a float for the homecoming parade and you pitched in until the job was complete.
- Your student resume -This one-page snapshot of your achievements may inspire recommenders to find the words they need to speak on your behalf.
What if someone doesn’t respond to my request quickly?
Teachers, coaches, and work supervisors are busy people who entertain many requests daily. You may need to remind them that a due date is approaching. It is your responsibility to initiate gentle reminders and always express gratitude for their help.