How to Ask for a Scholarship Recommendation Letter

Updated 8 April 2023

Providing proof of your ability to succeed in a future career is crucial when applying to various academic and professional positions. When applying for a scholarship, a letter of recommendation effectively shows your talents, enhances your credibility and impresses admissions counsellors and scholarship decision-makers. Understanding the importance of a recommendation letter and knowing how to request one helps you get an effective recommendation that differentiates your application. In this article, we define recommendation letters and their importance when applying for scholarships, provide suggestions of people you might ask for recommendation letters and explain how to request a scholarship recommendation letter.

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What is a scholarship recommendation letter?

A scholarship recommendation letter is a document that outlines an individual's qualities, character, skills and credibility, which they can use to apply for a scholarship. You may require a letter of recommendation for various situations, such as applications for university, internships or jobs. The people who write letters of recommendation are typically familiar with the individual's character, skills and academic, professional, creative or community work. For example, you might ask a professor, manager or mentor who knows you well to write a letter of recommendation.

Related: How to Write an Effective Recommendation Letter

Why is a letter of recommendation important for a scholarship?

Letters of recommendation can be extremely helpful when trying to earn a scholarship for a university degree programme. Here are a few ways that a letter of recommendation can increase your chances of receiving a scholarship:

Endorses your character

Letters of recommendation are an effective way to endorse the quality of your character. When organisations provide scholarship funding to students, they may want reassurance that the individual receiving the funds displays morals and values that align with their own. Providing a letter of recommendation from an individual with whom you have a close professional relationship may help offer credibility and proof of your outstanding character.

Related: What Is a Character Reference Letter? (With Tips and Samples)

Highlights your skills

When applying for a scholarship, showing your ability to excel in your chosen field through related roles or skills could help impress the people evaluating your application. An individual who has witnessed your skills, talents and competencies may highlight those strengths through a letter of recommendation. This can prove your experience and skill to the scholarship decision-makers, improving your chances of receiving funding.

Describes your motivation

Organisations that offer scholarships look for candidates who have the discipline, passion and motivation to excel in their chosen field of study. A letter of recommendation is a great way to show that you have these qualities by providing testimony from someone who has witnessed your work ethic and dedication. This could assure scholarship decision-makers of your determination to succeed in your academic and professional career.

Related: How To Write a Motivation Letter (With Tips and Examples)

Expresses confidence in your future success

Before awarding scholarship funds to a candidate, organisations may want proof of your likelihood to succeed in your chosen field. A letter of recommendation from a trusted professional connection is a powerful way to assure scholarship decision-makers of your future success. The letter can describe the experience you already have in the field and the talent you've displayed, showing your potential in that line of work. This type of endorsement can positively impact the success of your scholarship application.

Who to ask for a scholarship recommendation letter

Here are individuals you can consider asking for a letter of recommendation when seeking a scholarship:

Teacher or professor

Teachers and professors are great options for writing your letter of recommendation since they likely have personal knowledge of your academic success and potential. Consider asking a teacher with whom you have a positive relationship and who has experience or expertise in your field of study. For example, you could ask a professor who taught a class you took as part of your degree.

Manager or mentor

Consider asking a manager or mentor to write a letter of recommendation attesting to your work ethic, talents and character. If applicable, ask a manager or mentor who has knowledge or experience in your chosen field of study. Managers and mentors outside your field can still provide valuable recommendation letters about your character and work ethic.

Related: The Importance of a Mentor (And How to Find Your Own)

Colleague or classmate

Colleagues and classmates are also good options for writing your letter of recommendation. They may have practical experience working with you during your professional or academic career and could provide testimony related to your character and expertise in your field of study. Consider asking current or previous colleagues and classmates to write a letter of recommendation that attests to your level of knowledge, work ethic, character and ability to excel in related roles.

Community leader

If you're active in your community, consider asking a leader in that community to write a letter attesting to your character and work ethic. This could include an extracurricular coach, volunteer coordinator, religious leader or another prominent figure who has witnessed your contributions. A recommendation letter from a community leader can be especially valuable if that work relates to your field of study.

Professional in your field

If you have a relationship with a professional in your field outside of a work or classroom setting, you may ask them to write your letter of recommendation. Be sure they understand your field of study and have a related advanced degree or practical experience. Their letter can showcase that you possess specific skills for your field of study.

How to request a scholarship recommendation letter

Here are six steps you can follow when requesting a recommendation letter:

1. Identify your advocates

Make a list of potential letter writers who can provide an honest and comprehensive view of your qualifications. Consider the scholarship details and which perspectives may be the most valuable, such as perspectives on your academic work, professional life or community contributions. It's also important to check the guidelines for the scholarship, as some might not allow letters of recommendation from personal relationships like a friend or family member.

Related: How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation (With Steps)

2. Ask potential writers early

It's important to ask your letter writers well before the deadline so they have plenty of time to compose a letter of recommendation for you. Asking them in advance shows respect for their time and potentially busy schedules. It also makes it more likely that you can find a replacement writer if one of your first choices declines. Provide at least three weeks of advance notice, but a month or more may be ideal if possible.

3. Make a formal request

Even if you ask for a recommendation letter from a teacher or manager who you see multiple times a week, it's good to send a formal request via email. A record of emails can help both you and your letter writers stay organised. If it works for their schedule, you can also ask to meet in person to talk about the recommendation letter and explain your interest in the scholarship. After the meeting, you could send a follow-up email reiterating the request and providing important information.

4. Provide detailed information

To help your letter writers compose strong, accurate letters, give them as much information as possible about the scholarship and yourself. This can include basic details, like your contact information, or more in-depth details, like reminders of the work you've done together or classes you've taken with them. It's also essential to give them deadline information, copies of any required forms and instructions on formatting, addressing and sending letters. Describing the scholarship, including the title and the name of the person or organisation awarding it, can be another helpful detail.

Here are other examples of information that can help the person writing your recommendation letter:

  • list of your extracurricular activities

  • piece of work you're proud of, like an essay or details about a project

  • copy of your scholarship application or essay

  • recent cover letter

  • list of relevant accomplishments

5. Follow up

As the deadline for the scholarship approaches, it's acceptable to follow up with letter writers to remind them politely. You can email, call or ask in person if you can provide additional information to help them write the letter. It's appropriate to ask once or twice in the weeks leading up to the deadline and they may even appreciate the reminder.

Related: How to Write a Follow-Up Email After a Meeting

6. Show your appreciation

At every stage of this process, it's important to express your appreciation to the people writing your letters of recommendation. This shows respect for the personal time they may use to complete the task. Thank them for their consideration when you request the letter, even if they cannot ultimately write one for you. After receiving your letter of recommendation, you could express your gratitude by sending a thank you card, writing a follow-up email or calling to thank them for their time and effort.

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