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6 Hardcore Hacks for a Great Scholarship Letter of Recommendation
Don’t just get a GOOD scholarship letter of recommendation, use these hacks, and get a GREAT one!
Like the essay, the letter of recommendation gives the judges additional insight into the applicant that can be a big part of winning the scholarship money, or not.
Students who submit a strong letter of recommendation for scholarships (and college) have a greater chance of standing out and getting noticed.
How do students get a great letter?
What can students do to encourage their letter writers to craft letters that help them shine?
When and how should a student ask a teacher, community leader, or principal for their letters?
What I have learned in all my years of researching how to win college scholarships, is that going straight to the source and asking questions is by far the best way of getting honest answers.
Be sure to read: College Scholarship Judge Reveals Winning Secrets
Here is solid advice from teachers, community leaders, and high school counselors that will help students get GREAT letters of recommendation for scholarships and college admission.
S. McKay – Teacher
Teacher’s perspective – if a student wants a letter of recommendation for scholarships, this is what I need: 1 month’s notice, a complete resume (including part-time jobs, leadership positions, etc), a list of schools of interest and a deadline. I don’t write letters for students I can’t recommend, but while my recommendations range from cautionary to effusive, they are always kind.
If I’m to be HONEST, letters of recommendation are the last things on my extensive To-Do List because items that serve the most kids are first. I always tell my requesters to “nag me politely” and most of them do. I write between 20-30 a year b/c I teach primarily Jrs and Srs. And, when complete, a thank you note is the BEST!
I think it’s best to choose a teacher who KNOWS you well and can personalize your rec. accordingly. I especially like to write letters for students who I have had in class for several years and kids who “grew up” in my class…made a significant change, embraced my content area, with whom I had a great connection.
Some of my best recommendation letters for scholarships have been for kids who persevered despite the outcome in my class!
D. Yankey – Teacher
Students should remind the teacher of some helpful, funny, memorable situation that makes them think about their personal connection.
Letter of recommendation writers WANT to help students win scholarships and gain college acceptance, but there is a right way and a wrong way to request letters.
K. Greene – Teacher
As a teacher who is a parent, I would never agree to write a letter of recommendation that I didn’t feel a student deserved. That said, I have written recommendations that are more complimentary than others. I have never written a negative recommendation. When my students ask me to write a recommendation, I ask for at least two week’s notice. If they ask for one “tomorrow,” I tell them I can’t do it.
As a parent, I expect my kids will ask teachers personally for the letter, not via text or email. My children asked teachers that they felt knew them the best or were in their expected field of study. Also, I know that most teachers have a “standard” format that they use for most kids; they change out the activities and the adjectives. I can’t do that (makes me feel guilty).
M. Vecchiarello – High School Counselor
I work in a high school Guidance office. We use Naviance but we strongly suggest asking for the letter(s) of recommendation at the end of your junior year so that teachers can write them over the summer before the rush. English teachers get slammed with requests, so keep that in mind.
Ask in the guidance office. I always try to steer students away from certain teachers who say yes and then take months to produce a letter. Always ask in person first, then follow up in Naviance or with an email. Give the teacher your “resume” so that they can have your details.
Make it as easy for them as possible. It is best to waive your FERPA rights because some teachers will not do it if you don’t, even though they will write a nice letter.
If you like these scholarship letters of recommendation tips, you are going to LOVE reading How to Win College Scholarships! Get your copy right here now >>>
M. Feller – Teacher
Plenty of time to write the letter of recommendation for scholarships (a month or more) is always appreciated, as is a letter refreshing my memory on the positive things the student would like included or awards/activities/projects that I may have forgotten. Even if your child has to submit an online request, at their school, they should ALWAYS also approach the teacher to ask in person.
K. Norvall – Director of Youth Ministry
As one chooses references that are certain to be positive, the same must be true for choices of a teacher recommendation. Along with that choice, provide all the information to the educator at the beginning of the year, then use the letter of recommendation for all needs that fall.
If you really know the teacher well, you can certainly ask for recommendations more specific to the school. At the beginning of the year I used to remind students in my group that I was happy to do them now if they wanted. Because the flurry of them needed by early October could be overwhelming.
J. Turner – Teacher
As a teacher, I suggest asking at the end of Junior year if you are applying early. The beginning of the school year is crazy busy for teachers.
I have read some wonderful, heartfelt letters of recommendation for scholarships, and I have also read some very lukewarm unimpressive ones.
If you are serious about submitting the strongest scholarship application possible, use these tips and the ones found here to IMPRESS scholarship judges and win more money for college.
Do you have any letter of recommendation tips? Have you received a great letter of recommendation for a scholarship? What made it great?
Please feel free to share it in the comments section. ~ Monica Matthews
Monica Matthews is the author of How to Win College Scholarships. She helped her own son win over $100,000 in college scholarships and now shares her expertise with other parents and their students. She truly has “been there, done that” in regards to helping parents and students navigate the scholarship process.
Her method of helping students in finding college scholarships, writing unique and compelling scholarship essays, creating amazing scholarship application packets and more, have taught desperate parents to help their own students win thousands of scholarship dollars.
Monica’s scholarship tips have been featured on many prominent websites and she has been dubbed the “Go-To” expert on college scholarships.
Good work compiling this important information for students and for parents to show their kids!
Thank you, Carol! 🙂
These are great tips, Monica, and could apply to adults asking for letters of recommendation, too. Consideration and helping the person as much as possible in the process with a thank you note after it is complete go a long way toward living up to the recommendation.
Yes! Thank you notes are never ever wrong. Great tips!
Time to write the recommendation letters is HUGE! I’m a fast writer and was always happy to write letters for students, but anything less than a week’s notice almost always got a hard no.
Hear that students? Straight from another teacher. Thank you for sharing, Amber!
So much good information at every click on your blog! This is exactly what I need right now. I’m sharing this information with my daughter and her College Prep teacher. I had no idea she could apply being only a sophomore.
Thank you so much, Jenni! Good luck to your daughter and feel free to contact me anytime if you have scholarship questions.
These are great tips. I’m sure not many think about what the letter of recommendation should look like. They’re just happy one is getting done in the first place.
Thanks, Jennifer! Quality is so important in applying for scholarships and getting letters of recommendation.
I was VERY selective about what teachers I asked for recommendations, so I let them know WELL in advance I was going to pester them. I can’t imagine thinking that a recommendation asked for at the last minute would be viewed favorably haha.
Yes, that’s exactly what teachers are saying about how students ask for letters of recommendation. Thanks, Tony!
Hello! I love your writing so much!
Thank you so much, Johanna! 🙂
How long should an ideal rec letter be? How many words or paragraphs?
Hi Shikha, letters of recommendation should be more than a few paragraphs, but also kept to one page, if possible. Most students don’t have control over the length, however, since they are not writing them.
Great tips and love the advice on asking far in advance (especially the tip on asking before Summer). I consistently hear stories of last minute requests, which isn’t a good situation for neither student or teacher.
Thank you, Michael!