If you have ever filled out a scholarship application, you are familiar with the letter of recommendation. Most scholarships require at least one letter, and some require two or three! It can seem difficult to give someone else control of such an important part of the scholarship process, but if you play your cards right, you can increase your chances of receiving great letters of recommendation. Check out these tips!

How do I pick the right person?

Some applications specify who should write your recommendation, but others will be your choice. You probably have many adults in your life, so how do you pick the best ones to recommend you? Well first, you need to rule out all of your relatives. You may think that’s unfair, because they probably know you best, right? However, almost all applications do not accept letters from family members, because they want an unbiased recommendation. Next, make a list of the other adults in your life. You can include faculty and staff at your school, supervisors where you work or volunteer, individuals from your place of worship, an adult friend/neighbor, and more. The best recommenders will know you well, are interested in your future success, have at least a basic level of writing skill, can follow instructions, and are able to meet deadlines.

How do I ask?

Once you have selected a few potential recommenders (and yes, you will need a few people. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket!), it’s time to reach out and ask. First, approach your recommender at least two weeks before the scholarship deadline, and maybe more. Last-minute requests create rushed, unpolished letters of recommendation, so don’t procrastinate! You can use any form of communication that you would like to make this request, but be aware that asking in person is probably best. Here’s a basic script for what to say:

Hi, (recommender’s name), I am applying for (scholarship name), which is an award for students who (basic eligibility criteria here). The scholarship requires a letter of recommendation. Would you be willing to write a letter for me? The deadline is (date).

If they say no, politely thank them for their time and ask someone else. But if they say yes, great! Use the next step to help your recommender write a great letter.

What can I do to help my recommender?

You’ve already given your recommender plenty of time to complete your recommendation, but there are other ways that you can help ensure their success. First, try and give them a copy of the scholarship application, or at the very least, get them the recommendation instructions and deadline in writing so that they can refer to it. Second, have a resume handy that details your accomplishments. An Activities Resume is a great way to do this! Last, follow up with your recommender once or twice before the deadline to make sure that they’re on track. Check-in with them a week before the deadline to see if they need any more information from you, and then a couple of days before the deadline if they’re not already finished by that point.

Letters of recommendation can be time-consuming, but they don’t have to be difficult. Do you have any other recommendation tips? Leave them in the comments below!