When you choose individuals to write a letter of recommendation for scholarship and admission, you know it needs to be good. Not only does it need to display your character, qualities and future potential, the individual you choose to write it should know you. They really do have a big job — they have to understand the purpose of the scholarship letter, factors that generally appeal to a scholarship or admission committee and more. They have to juggle a lot of different things, which is why it is important to choose the right person for the job.
This is an important job because it could mean the difference between not getting admitted to your dream school or winning an all-important scholarship. Letters of recommendation remain extremely important in the evaluation process.
On that note, let’s walk through the types of recommendation letters you may need, how to select an individual to write your letter of recommendation, how to ask for a letter of recommendation for scholarship and admission, how to make the recommendation letter happen (from start to finish), and show you an example of a well-written recommendation letter.
Types of Recommendation Letters
In this blog post, we are focusing on two types of recommendation letters: scholarship letters of recommendation and letters of recommendation for admission. Let’s take a look at the following types more closely:
- Scholarships: Many scholarship rules state that you must submit a scholarship recommendation letter in addition to the other requirements. For example, local banks, churches, unions or professional organizations, rotary and Lions Clubs might offer scholarships. The letter of recommendation may be requested in this way: A letter of recommendation from a teacher that can speak to your writing strengths should be included with your writing submission. Others may have more detailed requests for recommendation letters.
- Admission: Many colleges require first-year applicants to submit letters of recommendation, including possibly a counselor recommendation, teacher recommendation and/or other recommendation from someone else who is not a teacher. For example, the University of Pennsylvania requires applicants to submit a high school counselor evaluation accomplishments, teachers who most recently taught students and another non-academic person who knows the candidate well, such as a supervisor at work, mentor, coach, music instructor, spiritual leader or another type of leader.
These letters should vary because they have different goals — gaining admission to college or applying for scholarships result in two vastly different outcomes. For example, if you are applying for a music scholarship, the letter of recommendation should point toward your current musical achievements and future plans to study music.
A letter of recommendation for admission, on the other hand, may focus more on broader elements of your personality, character, academic achievements, and more.
Overall, these letters of recommendations may be used many times if you are applying to multiple scholarships or college applications.
How to Select the Right Person to Write a Recommendation
Students often know immediately who will write their recommendation letter — that special teacher who has always encouraged them, a school counselor who has always taken an interest in their academic performance, or a coach who has worked to develop their character.
Step 1: Review the scholarship or admission requirements.
Read through the scholarship recommendations. What do they require you to do? For example, let’s say a scholarship application requires the following:
- An essay of introduction stating your present and future goals in less than 350 words — include how your participation in community service has affected you.
- A brief description of work or community service activities while attending high school.
- A description of reasons for applying for this scholarship.
- Recommendations from three individuals (such as teachers, clergy, coaches, employer, etc.).
- List any awards, achievements, sports activities, or positions held during high school years.
- High school transcript (certified copy from high school or an electronic copy sent by your school counselor through Naviance or Scoir).
As you can see in the above example, it clearly lists examples of individuals who can write a letter of recommendation. Some scholarship criteria will be more explicit, possibly that a letter of recommendation from a coach may not be appropriate.
Step 2: Choose the right person to write the recommendation for scholarship and admission.
Who should write your recommendation? If you have quite a few people to choose from, how do you narrow the field? Let’s take a quick look.
Does this individual have the right stuff to communicate to an admissions or scholarship interview committee? Will they show you in the best light? In other words, do you know for a fact that they will rave about your character, leadership skills, and other qualifications? Seek an individual with a personal relationship to write your letter of recommendation for a scholarship or for admission.
Once you think you know who will write the recommendation, you might want to share the suggestion with another adult in your life to get feedback, such as a parent or your high school counselor. You may want to do this if you have two or three great options at your disposal to ensure your application will stand out.
Step 3: Sit down or communicate with the individual you choose.
We always recommend to sit down with a teacher, school counselor, clergy member or another individual who will write your scholarship letter to ensure they are comfortable with writing a strong letter on your behalf. It means so much to them if you ask in person, possibly saying, “Your influence on my academic success has been invaluable and I would appreciate it if you could write a letter of recommendation for me.”
Share the scholarship requirements with the teacher, counselor, clergy member or another individual who will write your scholarship letter. You may email them a scholarship link if you are using an online scholarship search engine such as Going Merry.
The person you ask should familiarize themselves with the scholarship’s requirements. It is also a good idea to update all of your activities, extracurricular interests, academic accomplishments, and other factors relevant to the scholarship or school to which you apply. Some teachers may require your résumé or a form providing key information such as a “brag sheet.”
Knowing the guidelines and expectations of the scholarship, the writer of the letter can more easily write the letter and make it form the perfect mold for the entity that will receive it.
Step 4: Know the parts of a successful letter.
Next, let’s walk through how to write a letter of recommendation for scholarships. It is important that your letter writer understands these components. A scholarship letter of recommendation should cover a whole page and contain a letterhead, an introduction, two body paragraphs, and end with a compelling conclusion.
At the top left-hand corner of the page, the scholarship letter writer should include the date, their full name and title, the school name (if applicable), and street address as well as the city, state and ZIP code.
Let’s move on to the individual parts of the body of a letter, which includes the introduction, first paragraph, second paragraph, and a convincing conclusion.
The introductory paragraph should introduce you as the student, talk about the scholarship or college for which you are applying and describe the nature of the relationship with you. The introduction does not need to be long because the next few paragraphs will go into detail.
In paragraph one, the letter writer describes how you meet the qualifications for the scholarship or admission to the college in question. For example, the writer of the letter might draw from your academic accomplishments, leadership qualifications, volunteer or other community activities, music accomplishments — whatever is relevant to the scholarship or admission to the school. This helps the scholarship writer communicate that they understand exactly the type of qualifications the scholarship committee or admission committee requires. This paragraph should last between two and five sentences in length.
In the first paragraph, you have already noted that the candidate is a good match for the scholarship or the college/university in question. At this point, the letter writer should give specific examples to support the first paragraph.
For example, the first paragraph may list the student’s many leadership qualifications. If so, the second paragraph could detail leadership in specific organizations or clubs at school. The letter writer may also want to list specific character traits to demonstrate the student’s leadership skills. Depending on the examples involved in the description, this paragraph can also range from three to five sentences in length.
A scholarship letter of recommendation or a letter of recommendation for a college or university should end with a final paragraph that emphasizes the letter writer’s endorsement of you and encourages the scholarship or admission committee to contact them if they have more questions. The scholarship/admission writer should also sign the letter with a real signature to ensure that it’s legitimate. This should generally run from two to four sentences in length and reiterate how well the candidate fulfills the qualifications for the scholarship.
Step 5: Communicate the deadline date.
Finally, you want to let the letter writer know when they need to complete the letter. It is worth considering asking for the letter a few weeks in advance. Remember, the adults you are asking are likely busy people, so you also want to ask them in plenty of time. If you need a recommendation letter in two days, that might not give the letter writer enough time. Be sensitive to their schedule, just as you would prefer that they would be with yours.
Sample Letter of Admission
Now, let’s take a quick look at a sample letter of recommendation for scholarship to get an idea of what it should look like. You can tweak the wording to make it applicable to a scholarship opportunity or college admission. Take a look:
City, state, and ZIP code
Scholarship review committee name
City, state, and ZIP code
I have known Beth Smith for over a year as her independent educational consultant focusing on college and career planning. I am privileged to write this letter of recommendation on her behalf. Beth is an exceptional young woman who is dedicated to academics and extracurricular activities. She is an outstanding performer in all of her classes at Smith Prep School and is a positive influence to her peers.
Beth maintains her grades alongside her involvement with extracurricular activities, including horseback riding. Beth spent countless hours in a school leadership project that gave her unique industry insights to the engineering profession. She mentored and learned from top professionals from an internationally admired company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Westinghouse Electric Corporation. Through this experience, Beth even gained research experiences at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
I professionally nominated Beth as a student panelist at a regional STEM summit in May 2022. It was a week-long event hosted by the Pittsburgh Technology Council. I nominated Beth because she possesses the maturity, drive, and communication skills to interact with leadership at companies such as Google, Uber, and Facebook. She was exceptional on all the panel discussions. I received many compliments about Beth’s engaging personality from colleagues at the Pittsburgh Technology Council and participating companies.
Beth is a determined and engaging young woman who takes education seriously. When Beth is passionate about something, as she is in all of the aforementioned activities, she devotes all of her attention and energy toward it. I will certainly miss Beth’s cheerful presence as she moves on to higher education, but I am privileged to recommend her.
Jason A. Vallozzi
Founder, Campus to Career Crossroads
A Well-Written Letter Changes Lives
As a student, you may not feel as if you have a lot of power over the scholarship or admission recommendation process, but in reality, you have a lot of choices. These choices include who you will choose to write it, what you want included (to a degree) — that is why it is handy for the letter writer to have your résumé in hand), and more. You may also want to discuss the structure of your letter, especially if the letter writer does not have ample experience writing letters.
A well-written letter can mean the difference between receiving a scholarship and not being considered at all. A well-written letter can also mean the difference between realizing your educational dreams. It is worth it to take the time to make sure you put all the pieces in place.
If you need help determining the best letter of recommendation strategies for scholarship and admission, contact Campus to Career Crossroads, to get your efforts on the right track!
Will I get to review my letter of recommendation for scholarship and admission?
A person writing a letter of recommendation is not required or obligated to share it with you. This is another reason you want to be very thoughtful when deciding who to ask for a letter of recommendation. You want to ensure the writer can write about your amazing achievements and attributes.
Do all colleges or scholarships ask for a letter of recommendation?
No. You need to be diligent as an applicant and look very closely at admissions or scholarship requirements. You can always look at the Common App member page to review whether letters of recommendation are required or not.
Should I submit extra letters of recommendation?
Not necessarily. You should follow the specific guidelines set by a scholarship committee or college. For example, many colleges have a maximum number of letters they will review.
The admission committee may not have time to review three or four extra letters of recommendation. Follow the guidelines laid out in front of you by a college or scholarship committee.