Getting Good Recommendations

You will want a recommendation that will complement the resume and essay you are submitting in your application.  The best recommendation letters come from someone who can speak to your accomplishments beyond the facts of your resume.  Someone—other than a parent—with whom you have established a connection and who can provide a personal story or anecdote about you that adds insight to your unique qualities.

Here are key strategies to help get a great recommendation letter:

  • Provide information about you and the scholarship.  The recommender will need and appreciate your resume, sample school work if applicable, and a description of the scholarship.
  • Allow sufficient time.  Give the recommender at least three weeks’ notice.
  • Help with the logistics.  Provide email addresses, fax numbers, or a stamped and addressed envelope to ensure the recommendation is delivered.
  • Finally, keep the person updated on the status of the application and show your gratitude with a thank you letter.  

A Tale of a Bad Recommendation:

While serving on a scholarship selection committee; one of the recommendation letters we received was from a high school counselor praising the student’s academic and athletic accomplishments.  Unfortunately, the sport and scholastic achievements didn’t match what was on the student’s resume.  The soccer star was now a gymnast.  Instead of debate, the student was highly involved in student government.  The counselor had a form letter and had used another student’s information.

This is a good example of a bad recommendation.  Impersonal and inaccurate it got our attention for all of the wrong reasons.  Often you won’t be able to see the recommendation letter that someone submits on your behalf, but you can take steps to avoid this scenario happening to you.