When I was in high school, I asked my history teacher for a letter of recommendation for a scholarship. To my surprise, he promptly printed out a prewritten letter he gave to all his students. I could use it too, as long as I changed the “he’s” to “she’s.”
Luckily, I had enough time to ditch that letter and ask another teacher. When you’re applying for scholarships, a generic letter won’t get you far. Instead, committees want a personal letter that sheds light on who you are.
Even though someone else is doing the writing, there’s a lot you can do to get a strong letter of recommendation for your scholarship. Take these five steps, and you could be that much closer to winning money for college.
1. Find a teacher or mentor who knows you well
Your first step to getting a strong recommendation letter for a scholarship is asking the right person to write it. Unlike my high school history teacher, your recommender should write a customized letter for each and every student.
They should be someone you’re close to who can speak to your strengths. Plus, your recommender should connect with the theme of the scholarship.
“Make a list of individuals who … fit the scholarship profile,” advised college admissions coach Pam Andrews. “For an academic merit scholarship, ask teachers you had in math, science, or other core academic subjects. For leadership or community service scholarships, ask a community leader or leader of the organization where you volunteered.”
Not only should your recommender know you well, but they should have worked with you in the context of the scholarship. That way, they can write a letter that proves just how much you deserve to win.
2. Ask at least a month before your deadline
Once you’ve selected your recommender, make your request at least a month in advance of your deadline. Some students even ask in the spring of junior year for letters they’ll need in the fall.
“Remember the adage ‘the early bird gets the worm,’” said JP Figdor, a director at Synocate College Counseling. “Teachers and other recommenders will have many people asking them for letters of recommendation. Make sure your request is one of the first they hear.”
If you ask at the last minute, your teacher will have to rush to put together a letter. It probably won’t be their best work, and it won’t help your chances of winning the scholarship very much. Your teacher might even decline if they’re too busy.
To get the best letter you can — and stay in your teacher’s good graces — ask for your letter well ahead of your deadline.
3. Share all the details of the scholarship
Assuming your teacher agrees, your next step is to share everything they need to know about the scholarship. Send your recommender an email explaining:
- What the scholarship is for
- When the deadline is
- How to submit their letter
- What the letter should focus on
“Provide your recommender with the background information on the scholarship-granting organization, and make sure you share the eligibility requirements so that they know exactly what the committee is looking for,” advised Jessica Johnson, founder of The Scholarship Academy and recipient of $200,000 in scholarship money.
“The recommendation letter should be tailored to reflect the respective organization’s core values and mission,” she added.
You might not realize you can make suggestions for the recommendation letter for your scholarship. But most teachers appreciate any direction you can give.
4. Provide a thoughtful ‘brag sheet’ and resume
Even if you have a great relationship with your teacher, they might not remember your amazing thesis project or all the insightful comments you made in class. That’s why you should write up a “brag sheet” to remind them of your achievements, as well as share some of your goals.
Many high school counselors distribute brag sheets to students in junior or senior year. These worksheets typically pose a number of personal questions, like:
- What’re some academic and personal achievements you’re most proud of?
- What’s an experience that’s had a significant impact on you?
- What three positive adjectives best describe you?
- What’re your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- What major are you considering for college? What led you to choose that major?
If your counseling department doesn’t provide a template, you could write up your own. Sharing an updated resume with your GPA, extracurricular activities, and any awards you’ve received could help your recommender.
“Share very concrete bullet points about your accomplishments and challenge your recommender to write about … the qualities that would make you stand out from other applicants,” said Johnson.
Even if you have a close relationship with your recommender, you can’t expect them to remember everything about you. A brag sheet and resume will jog their memory so they can craft a letter unique to you.
5. Follow up with a thank-you note
Once your recommender submits their letter, don’t forget to thank them for their help. Show your appreciation with a thoughtful email or a handwritten thank-you card. And if you win the scholarship, make sure to let them know and thank them again for their assistance.
Their letter of recommendation for your scholarship could have been that special X-factor that put your application over the edge.
Letters of recommendation for scholarships play a big role
Many scholarship committees aren’t just interested in your grades and test scores. They’re curious about who you are and what role you play in your school and community.
“Letters of recommendation distinguish students and give [scholarship committees] the unique perspective needed,” said high school counselor Rachel Berlin. “Test scores and grades do not show committees the personal side of applicants — the letters of recommendation bring candidates to life.”
Effective letters can advocate for you in a powerful way. By choosing your recommender thoughtfully, you’ll be well on the way to winning scholarship money and reducing the cost of college.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2019!
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1 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
Explanation of Rates “With Autopay” (APD)
In school deferred payment is not available in AL, AZ, CA, FL, MA, MD, MI, ND, NY, PA, and WA).
3 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
(1)All rates shown include the auto-pay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
(2)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
(3)As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.
Information advertised valid as of 7/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for Discover.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
6 Important Disclosures for PNC.
Fixed Annual Percentage Rates (APRs): APRs range from 4.52% to 9.58% for a 5-year term. APRs range from 5.05% to 10.26% for a 10-year term. APRs range from 5.55% to 10.84% for a 15-year term. Fixed rates are based on the creditworthiness of the borrower and co-signer, if any. Loan Payment Example: The monthly payment per $10,000 borrowed at a fixed rate range of 5.05% APR to 10.26% APR for 10 years means you would make 120 payments which may range from $131.94 to $207.24. For the fixed rate loan, the monthly payment will remain fixed for the term of the loan. Payments may vary for other repayment term options.
Variable Annual Percentage Rates (APRs): APRs range from 4.90% to 9.92% for a 5-year term. APRs range from 5.38% to 10.57% for a 10-year term. APRs range from 5.85% to 11.11% for a 15-year term. Variable rates are based on the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) index plus a margin depending on the creditworthiness of the borrower and co-signer, if any. The LIBOR index, adjusted quarterly, is equal to the average of the one-month LIBOR rates as published in the “Money Rates” section of the Wall Street Journal on the first business day of each of the three (3) calendar months immediately preceding each quarterly adjustment date. The LIBOR index is currently 2.47%. If the index increases or decreases, your rate will increase or decrease accordingly. Loan Payment Example: The monthly payment per $10,000 borrowed at a variable rate range of 5.38% APR to 10.57% APR for 10 years means you would make 120 payments which may range from $135.93 to $212.65. For the variable rate loan, the monthly payment may increase or decrease if the interest rate increases or decreases. Payments may vary for other repayment term options.
APRs and loan payment examples are for the fully deferred repayment option for the Undergraduate & Graduate loan programs and include the 0.50% interest rate discount for automatic payments. The lowest APR is available to well qualified applicants. Your actual APR will be based on your credit qualifications, selection of fixed or variable rate option, loan program, repayment term, repayment option and whether you elect the automatic payment feature. Loan payment examples assume 30 days to first payment after the deferment period (45 months in school and 6 month grace period). Payments vary for other rates, repayment terms and repayment options.
In addition to Undergraduate and Graduate loans, PNC offers loans for Health & Medical Professions, Health Professions Residency and Bar Study. Rates may vary by loan program and are subject to change at any time. Visit pnconcampus.com for current rates, additional loan payment examples and more details about the Solution loan products.
Please note: PNC reserves the right to modify or discontinue the terms of these program at any time without notice. You are encouraged to explore all scholarship, grant and federal borrowing options before applying for a private loan. Private loans are subject to credit approval.
PNC is a registered service mark of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.
|3.98% – 11.35%*,1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.99% – 11.44%2||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.96% – 11.98%3||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.72% – 11.87%4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.66% – 9.64%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.90% – 11.11%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|