To a scholarship committee, strong letters of recommendation represent a reliable third party’s objective appraisal of your potential as a developing contributor to society. Even though it is ultimately up to your recommenders to write these letters, there is still much you can do to ensure that your letters of recommendation are outstanding and to help your recommenders have an easy a job as possible.

Provide your recommender with the tools needed by:

  1. Cultivating a relationship. Get to know your recommenders well.
    1. Sit at the front of their classes.
    2. Ask questions.
    3. Be alert.
    4. Go to office hours.
      1. Use this time to make sure you understand the subject of the classes well.
      2. Set up an appointment to discuss your personal and professional plans and aspirations. Spend some time contemplating the following topics so you’ll be prepared to communicate well with your recommenders.
        1. During your college education, do you plan to:
          1. Travel abroad?
          2. Have an internship or two?
          3. Join or lead clubs that interest you?
          4. Apply for scholarships:
            1. In the major or field in that department?
            2. For travel abroad?
            3. Distinguished scholarships?
        2. Discuss your short- and long-term goals and plans.
  2. Communicating your goals clearly. Let your recommenders know why you plan to apply for a scholarship. If you are applying for more than one distinguished scholarship, you must do this for every scholarship as each has different goals.
    1. What’s special about this scholarship?
    2. How does it fit with your goals and plans?
    3. What qualifies you for this scholarship?
  3. Providing helpful background information on awards. Provide your recommenders with a bulleted summary of the scholarship(s) you plan to apply for; this shows that you have done your homework. Include information about the scholarship deadlines and how the recommenders will provide information. Also, don’t forget to include a website for further information.
  4. Making sure recommenders know the details of your accomplishments. Supply your recommenders with your resume, but first:
    1. Make sure it includes:
      1. All of your work and volunteer activities since senior year of high school.
      2. All of your awards, scholarships, and honors since senior year of high school.
      3. All of your internships, languages, andspecial skills.
    2. Have people you personally know and trust read your resume, and have you made sure you have included all pertinent details? (For example, family and friends may remember accomplishments that you haven’t listed.)
    3. Have your resume reviewed at the Academic Success and Career Center (ASCC) in Lighty 180. Get an expert’s opinion of your document.
    4. Ask yourself what you hope your recommender will say about you for each distinguished scholarship you are applying for. Have you done something in particular with your recommender–research or a special project? Be sure to include this in your resume or bulleted list. Don’t assume that recommenders have great memories; do assume that they are very busy people!
  5. Coordinating effectively. Provide the timeline within which you need the recommendation (a month is the shortest amount of time you should expect).
  6. As appropriate, check in by email to remind your recommender about the timeline.
  7. Demonstrating gratitude. DO NOT forget that a handwritten letter of thank you is appropriate once the letter has been submitted. Make sure your recommenders know you appreciate the time they took out of their busy schedules to invest in your future.