An excellent scholarship application requires time, effort, and editing before it is ready to be submitted. However, a lot of students can drop the ball on their letter of recommendation, which in turn can cost them scholarship money. How do you make sure that you are getting quality letters of recommendation if you don’t have any control over what your recommender writes? Believe it or not, there are some ways to increase your chances of getting a good letter of recommendation. Check out these tips to get started!
Build a positive image.
One of the best ways to receive a good letter of recommendation is to have a lot of positive things about yourself for your recommender to write about. How do you do that? First, try hard and have a positive attitude at school, extracurricular activities, and work. This doesn’t mean to project a fake personality, but it does mean that you need to work hard and be involved. Find activities that you enjoy and build relationships within those activities. Make your college plans known and show that you are willing to work toward your goals and to learn from your mistakes. You don’t have to be an amazing student for people to see you in a positive light.
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/volunteer supervisor, pastor/religious leader, or mentor.
Make your recommender’s job easy.
When you’ve selected the perfect recommender and they’ve agreed to write a letter for you, here are some ways to make the writing process as easy as possible for them:
- Give them at least two weeks before the scholarship deadline to write the letter.
- Give them a copy of the scholarship application, so they know what the scholarship is for and how best to frame your recommendation.
- Provide a list of your relevant accomplishments that they can mention in your letter (Hint: building an Activities Resume is a great way to do this!).
- Provide any necessary submission materials (envelope, stamp, etc.) and/or instructions.
- Follow up with them within a few days of the deadline to make sure they are working on your letter (adults procrastinate, too!) and to see if they have any questions.
Although a letter of recommendation is very important to the scholarship application process, it does not have to be difficult. With a little planning and organization, you can greatly increase your chances of getting an excellent letter of recommendation.