The letter of recommendation can be one of the most important and nerve-wracking parts of a scholarship application. How can you guarantee that your letter of recommendation will match the quality of the rest of your application when you aren’t the one writing it? The truth is, you can’t control how well your letter will turn out. However, you can take these steps to increase the chances of receiving an excellent letter of recommendation:
Select the right person.
Finding the right person to write your letter is arguably the hardest part of the recommendation process. Consider these questions when you’re trying to find a recommender: Who knows you well? Who do you respect? Who has seen you succeed and/or work hard to improve? Who is invested in your future? Is this person able to express themselves clearly, and do they keep their time commitments? You are looking for someone who knows you well, who has a favorable opinion of you, and who is able to express themselves well and meet deadlines. Keep in mind that family members are usually not allowed to write your letter of recommendation!
Provide the right resources.
Have you ever tried to write a research paper without any resources? Nearly impossible, right? Even if your recommender knows you fairly well, it may be difficult to gather all of your good qualities and accomplishments into one letter without a little help. And since you are the leading expert on yourself, you are the most qualified to provide this help. When you ask someone to write a letter for you, make sure to give them a copy of the scholarship application (or at least the criteria), and a copy of your resume that includes your extracurricular activities, any work experience, your academic achievements, and any leadership positions you may have held. A great way to do this is by creating an Activities Resume and maintaining it throughout your high school career.
Give them enough time.
Think for a moment about how the quality of your work suffers when you procrastinate. Now I’ll let you in on a little secret: adults procrastinate, too (A LOT)! If you want to increase your chances of receiving a great letter of recommendation, be sure to give your recommender all of the materials that they need for your letter at least two weeks before the scholarship deadline, and make sure that they are clear on when and how the letter is to be submitted. It is also not a bad idea to check in a few days before the deadline to make sure that they’re still on track.
Handing off part of your scholarship application to someone else is daunting, but with a clear timeline and a little preparation beforehand, you can increase your chances of winning more scholarships. What letter of recommendation tips do you have? Leave them in the comments below!