So, you've submitted your applications, written the essays, and taken the standardized tests for college. Or maybe you're already in college and searching for more ways to fund your education.

There are many scholarships available for college students. Some require only an application or an essay and you're done.

Other scholarships will require letters of recommendation to help the committee decide on who would be the best recipient.

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If the thought of having to ask for a recommendation letter for a scholarship makes you nervous, don't worry. Follow these steps to walk yourself through the request so you can receive that scholarship.

Who Knows You Best?

When asking for a letter of recommendation, think about who knows you best.

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Remember, you want a recommendation letter for a scholarship from someone who can speak to your strengths and make you stand out from the crowd.

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Choose someone who knows you well and can provide a well-rounded letter to justify why you deserve the scholarship. You wouldn't want to ask your teacher from 5th grade for a letter of recommendation unless they still play a role in your life.

  • Current or most recent teacher(s)/professor(s)

  • Guidance counselor

  • Manager at work

  • Pastor, if applicable

  • Coach(es)

  • Principal or dean, if applicable

Quiz: Who's the Right Teacher to Ask?

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Pippa is applying for a scholarship to college. She needs a letter of recommendation but doesn't know which teacher would be the best person to ask to give her the best chance of receiving the scholarship.

Which person would write the best letter for Pippa?

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  • Ms. Thomas, the Key Club advisor/English teacher. Pippa serves as a club officer and helps run meetings, but has a B+ in Ms. Thomas's English class.

An image of students in marching band.

  • Mr. Martin, her former band teacher. She quit the band in 10th grade to focus on other extracurriculars, but they attend the same church so see each other regularly.

An image of a woman wearing glasses.

  • Mrs. Bryant, her anatomy teacher. She has a good relationship with her, but she barely made a C in the class.


Who would be the best person to ask for a letter of recommendation?

Do You Have a Resume?

You might think, "But I'm not applying for a job. Why do I need a resume?"

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Providing your resume can strengthen your recommendation letter for a scholarship.

Depending on who you ask, the person will write about how they know you.

For example, if you ask your coach, they'll write about you as a player on their team. They may not know your strengths in the classroom, the extracurriculars you participate in, or the jobs you're involved in outside of the sport.

A resume can provide them with the opportunity to provide more insight into you as a well-rounded candidate for the scholarship panel to consider.

What if I have no job experience?

If you have no experience, you can still craft a resume to pass on to your recommender. You can include the following:

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Experiences in School

  • Academic achievements, such as honor roll

  • Member of clubs/organizations, such as school newspaper, National Honor Society, student government

  • Committee member for school events, such as prom or homecoming

An image of hands shaking.

Experiences Outside of School

  • Internships

  • Jobs

  • Sports, whether in school or recreational

  • Volunteer work, such as at animal shelters, hospitals, or a nursing home


What information should Pippa NOT provide to the person writing her letter of recommendation? Select all that apply.

Do You Know When the Application is Due?

So, you've narrowed down your potential list of recommenders and created your resume to pass out to your teachers.

Now, the next step is to get in contact with your prospective recommender and ask politely. You should always try to ask in person. If asking in person is out of the question, you can reach out via phone, followed by email.

Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines

The final part is to make sure you know the deadlines for the scholarship applications.

It's important to respect your recommender's time, so you'll need to be able to provide a date for when the letter is due. This gives them enough time to look over your resume and craft a letter to help you stand out from the crowd of applicants.

A calendar with red pushpins and the 30th circled. Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

If you wait until the last minute to ask for a letter, you take the chance of your recommender saying no, leaving you scrambling to find someone else or the letter arriving late and disqualifying you from the scholarship pool.

Did You Say Thank You?

You've submitted your recommendation letter for a scholarship and you're just waiting to hear back from the committee. Take this time to write a thank you note.

Keanu Reeves looking confused.

Do people still write thank you notes?

Yes! These are a few reasons why it's important to write a thank you note:

  1. To express your gratitude.

  2. To acknowledge that they took time out of their schedule to help your chances of getting a scholarship.

You can handwrite it or submit it by email, making sure to check for any typos. If you choose to handwrite a note, make sure your writing is neat. Deadlines also apply to thank you letters. Aim to send the thank you note within 2 weeks.

Homer Simpson showing Lisa a thank you card.

If you need help getting started, check out this Byte on writing a thank you letter to the teacher who gave you a letter of recommendation. You can also use Emily Post's guide to writing thank you letters.

Take Action

You can put what you have learned into action by taking the following steps:

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