You’ve finally found a scholarship that seems like the perfect fit for you, and then you read the dreaded words “letter of recommendation required.” Yikes! So how do you go about getting these potential life-changing letters anyway? By following the five simple steps listed below.

Five Steps For Success

If you think back to English Composition class, you probably remember your teacher drilling into you the concept of “Who, What, Where, When, and How.” Well, your old friends are back to revisit you, but this time as the formula for successfully securing letters of recommendation!

Who Should Write a Letter of Recommendation?

While your Aunt Sarah might think you’re terrific, she and your grandma are not the right individuals to give you a letter of recommendation. As a general rule, never have family members provide you with letters of recommendation.

The best letters of recommendation come from individuals who have first-hand knowledge of your academic accomplishments, community involvement, or leadership skills. Some examples include teachers, counselors, coaches, neighbors, members of your church, or any adult that knows you from organizations or community projects.

What Should I Ask?

Ask for what you need but keep it short and simple. If you’re nervous or embarrassed to ask, remember whoever you’ve selected probably had to ask someone for a recommendation, themselves, at some point.

Remember to include the points below as part of your request.

  • The type of scholarship for which you are applying  
  • When you need their letter of recommendation
  • Details stating to whom and where they should send the letter (if via snail mail provide them with a pre-addressed stamped envelope)
  • Information about the scholarship criteria and why you feel you met the criteria
  • Remember to say “Thank You” as writing letters of recommendation take time and effort

Where Should I Ask?

Ideally, you should make your request in person. If you can’t ask in person, send a well-crafted email. Get an adult or friend to look it over before you press send to ensure the tone is appropriate and that it doesn’t contain any embarrassing grammatical errors. 

When Should I Ask?

Nothing is worse than asking someone to do you a huge favor with a short deadline. Give individuals a minimum of three weeks to write and submit a letter on your behalf. If possible, make your request as early as six to eight weeks in advance. 

How Should Letters of Recommendation Be Written?

Make writing your letter of recommendation easy. Give the individuals you’ve requested recommendations from some information about you and your achievements to use when drafting their letter. Create a one-page resume of your accomplishments, community involvement, memberships, and awards. Click here for more details and examples.

What’s Next?

Have the “Who, What, Where, When, and How” approach mastered but feel overwhelmed about tracking scholarship submissions? Good news—there’s an app for that! Scholar’s App is a platform that connects students to verified scholarships and tracks the entire financial aid process. Easily create a profile, search for scholarships, and even submit applications online. Click here to sign up—it’s FREE!

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