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!
College is increasingly so expensive that parents and their students are desperate to find ways to help pay for it. I helped my son win over $100,000 in college scholarships and want to help you too. How did I do it? Read my story here.
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~ Monica Matthews
After four years of judging in the selection of my Savor Summer College Scholarship winner, I know how important the letter of recommendation portion is for scholarships. 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.
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 guidance counselors that will help students get a GREAT letter of recommendation for scholarships and college admission.
S. McKay – Teacher
Teacher’s perspective – if a student wants a letter of recommendation, 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 recommendations 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.
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.
M. Feller – Teacher
Plenty of time to write the letter of recommendation (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.
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 scholarship applicants, 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? Please feel free to share them in the comments section. ~ Monica Matthews