As your child applies for scholarships, they are almost guaranteed to find some that require a letter of recommendation as part of the application process. Getting a scholarship letter of recommendation can feel like a challenge, especially if your student doesn’t know who they should ask to supply this important document. With this guide, we will help you and your child ensure they get the best letter of recommendation for scholarships possible!
To help you both become more familiar with the scholarship letter of recommendation requirement, here’s what you need to know.
What is a Scholarship Letter of Recommendation?
Letters of recommendation for scholarships are similar to those your child may have acquired as part of the college admissions process. Typically, these documents provide the scholarship committees with valuable insight regarding your student’s qualities, character, and accomplishments. They are usually written by someone who knows your child well, as people who are close to them can best speak to their attributes or answer any identified questions the scholarship committee may have.
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Who Can Write the Letter?
Often, one of the hardest parts about acquiring a scholarship letter of recommendation is determining who should actually write the letter. In some cases, the instructions for applying will specify who the committee wants to hear from, making this part of the process somewhat easier. However, when they don’t provide explicit guidance, your child will have to make this determination on their own.
The most common sources for a scholarship letter of recommendation are teachers, employers, volunteer work supervisors, and mentors.
At times, coworkers may also be suitable options, depending on the nature of the relationship.
It helps to have multiple options when it comes to those writing a letter for your child. This helps avoid overwhelming one person with a ton of requests.
Furthermore, ensuring these various letters are from people in different areas is best to share a well-rounded view. For example, if the scholarship allows 2 or 3 letters of recommendation, we suggest getting one from a left-brain activity or subject (science or math for example), one from a right-brain activity or subject (creative tasks), and/or one from an extracurricular activity. This isn’t a hard rule but the idea is to use the opportunity of submitting multiple letters to share a well-rounded picture.
The most important part in deciding who to ask is to choose a person who can provide the committee with the most valuable information. However, even though they may know your child better than anyone else, family members and friends aren’t usually the best sources in the eyes of the committee (unless the instructions specifically request their input).
Is a Scholarship Letter of Recommendation Necessary?
Whether or not a scholarship letter of recommendation is considered a requirement is based on the application’s instructions provided by the committee. If one is listed as a must-have portion of the application, then, yes, it is always necessary.
In cases where one isn’t requested, your child may still want to submit one, as long as the instructions allow for supplemental documents. At times, your student will have the flexibility to provide additional information that helps demonstrate why they should be considered for the award, and a scholarship letter of recommendation is a wonderful addition. But, other applications are a bit more limiting, and they don’t want anything added that isn’t spelled out on the requirements list.
How Many Letters Does Your Child Need?
The answer to this question depends on the scholarships to which your child is applying. Certain committees will only request a single letter of recommendation, while others may want two or three. In some cases, the same document can be used in multiple applications, as long as the content is applicable to each of the scholarships, but that isn’t always an option depending on the topics that need to be covered by the writer.
Ultimately, there is no hard and fast rule about the number of scholarship letters of recommendation your child should gather, though having a few that can be applied to various situation is always handy.
How to Ask for a Scholarship Letter of Recommendation
From your child’s perspective, the actual act of asking for a scholarship letter of recommendation may feel like the hardest part. But, it doesn’t have to be.
The first thing that needs to be mentioned is it is almost always better to ask sooner than later. Writing a letter takes time and, if the person has a full schedule, giving them only a day or twos notice isn’t going to fly, especially if you want the content to be thoughtful.
Typically, the best approach is to be very straightforward about the request. Your child should let the person know that they are applying for a scholarship and that it requires a letter of recommendation. Then, they can simply ask the prospective writer if they would be willing to provide the document and see if the timeframe associated with the application deadline works for them. We always tell our students to give recommenders at least 2 weeks notice.
Your student does have options regarding how they make the request, though discussing it with the individual in-person first is always preferable. If that isn’t possible, a phone call is also a strong choice. Then, after the initial communication, your child can send a follow-up email with additional details, such as the topics that must be covered and how the letter needs to be submitted.
One trick we also recommend is to send a resume or list of involvements, achievements and activities along with the request. Your child shouldn’t be afraid to provide recommenders with the ammo they need to write an amazing letter. The more information they have, the better they can sell your child.
Should the Letter be Digital or Printed?
This is another point where referring to the instructions outlined in the application process is important. Some committees will want an original, hand-signed copy of the scholarship letter of recommendation sent to them separately while others may prefer email. In some cases, it will need to be attached along with the rest of the materials being submitted by your student.
However, when at all possible, getting a hand signed copy that is printed on official school or business letterhead is often ideal. That way, if a digital copy is required, your student just needs to scan the letter and save it as a PDF. But, if the original is needed, there is a copy available.
Make Paper Letters Easy to Send
Whenever an original, printed letter is required, make sure your child is ready to keep the process as simple as possible for the writer.
Always Say Thank You
Whenever someone writes a scholarship recommendation letter for your child, it should be viewed as a favor that is deserving of appreciation. In the end, the person may be responsible for your student getting an award, so giving thanks is just the polite thing to do.
Ideally, the writer should be thanked at least twice; once when they agree to create the document and again when they provide the finished letter.
Saying “thank you,” or even sending a hand signed thank you card, only takes a moment out of your child’s day, and making the effort is always worthwhile.
The scholarship letter of recommendation is just one topic that we cover in-depth in our online course for students and parents. In our course, we cover exactly how to secure scholarships for college. Our goal is to help families secure millions in scholarships – and we are well on our way!
If you and your student would like to learn more about uncovering and winning scholarships for college, and learn more about our course, sign up for our free college scholarship webinar. It’s a great way to learn about the process and see how scholarships can help your child graduate from college debt free.
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