One of the most important parts of any scholarship application is the letter of recommendation. Some applications require two or three (or more) letters, so it is essential to decide who to ask and to ask early. It can feel intimidating to ask someone to recommend you, but it is a necessary skill that you will probably use many times in life. Let’s take some of the anxiety out of the letter of recommendation by answering some basic questions that you may have.
Who Should I Ask?
Your first step when deciding who to ask should be to check the scholarship application itself. Not all scholarships do this, but some specify that your letter of recommendation must be written by your school counselor, a teacher, your principal, etc. If this is the case, your job is easy—just ask that person! If the application does not require a specific person, you will have to do some brainstorming. Ask yourself these questions:
- Which adults know me well?
- Who do I respect?
- Who has seen me in a positive light?
- Who is invested in my future?
- Who can I trust to write something positive and articulate about me?
- Who can I trust to meet a deadline?
Keep in mind that you should not ask a family member to write a letter of recommendation for you (in fact, many applications expressly forbid it), but hopefully you should have a few other ideas. Some options could be a teacher, counselor, coach, work supervisor, pastor/religious leader, or mentor.
When Should I Ask?
In the best case scenario, you should gather a list of potential recommenders and ask them before you start filling out any scholarship applications. That way all you would need to do would be to talk to them again when you have a specific scholarship in mind, and you would have backups in case your first choice declines.
But if you’re looking at a pile of scholarship applications right now and you haven’t asked anyone to write a recommendation for you yet, don’t panic! If you give your recommender at least two weeks before the deadline, they should have plenty of time to write a great letter for you. Definitely follow up about a week before the deadline to make sure that your letter is in progress.
How Should I Ask?
There isn’t really a ‘right’ way to ask someone for a letter of recommendation. Asking in-person is best, but it is also acceptable to ask by phone call or email. Here is a possible script that you can use while talking to a potential recommender:
Hi (person’s name), I am filling out an application for (scholarship name), which is a scholarship for (list basic eligibility criteria). The application requires a letter of recommendation. Would you be willing to write that recommendation for me? The deadline is (date).
You may want to have the scholarship application on hand for them to review, if possible. If they agree to recommend you, be sure to provide them with a list of the criteria and/or their own copy of the application, as well as a resume of your accomplishments. If you haven’t done so already, create an Activities Resume to keep all of your high school activities and achievements in one place.
Asking for a letter of recommendation can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Do you have any more tips about letters of recommendation? Leave them in the comments below!