What Should be Included in a Letter of Recommendation on a College Scholarship Application

Has one of your students has asked you to write a college scholarship letter of recommendation? Congratulations; you’ve made a connection with this student that has inspired them to turn to you for assistance. Hopefully, you want to write an outstanding recommendation letter, but if you’re like many teachers or professors, you may not know exactly what to say to impress the scholarship committee. Although the exact nature of your letter of recommendation will vary depending on the scholarship, here are a few general rules for what you should include.

How Do You Know The Student?

One of the first things to put in your letter is the nature of your relationship with the student. Did the earn a B+ in a 500-person lecture class or are they an academic star in an A.P. Physics class? College scholarship committees value letters from professionals who truly know their students, so mention any personal connections between you and the student. Does the student come to office hours or linger after class to talk to you about subject matter? Are you the student’s academic advisor or have you worked together on a project? Share as many details as you can to establish yourself as an authority on the student’s personal and academic attributes.

Why Does The Student Deserve The Scholarship?

Once you’ve explained how well you know the student, you can make a convincing case for why the student deserves scholarship money. You should discuss the student’s overall grades and marks from individual assignments; get the student’s permission first so you don’t violate FERPA. If the student has shown exceptional interest in an academic area, gone above the requirements for a particular assignment or always earns excellent grades, be sure to mention those facts.

Some professors concentrate solely on academic success, but that’s a mistake. A scholarship letter of recommendation is your chance to tell a story about your student, and that story involves life outside the classroom. Has your student overcome personal or professional hardships to succeed in school? Perhaps your student is a foster child, a single parent, a first-generation college student or a full-time employee; these details are an important part of the student’s narrative. You want to include these external facts in your letter so the committee can understand how exceptional your student truly is.

Unique Details

Every scholarship committee is looking for different information, and you’ll need to tailor your letter of recommendation for each application. Talk to the student who asked for a letter to find out the details of the scholarship. You might find yourself discussing religious devotion or leadership skills. Many scholarships emphasize volunteer service, working while in school or passion for the environment. Make sure you don’t find yourself emphasizing academic skills when the letter of recommendation should be discussing the student’s community involvement.

If you don’t know a student well enough to write an excellent letter or don’t think the student deserves a scholarship, you aren’t obligated to recommend them. A college scholarship letter of recommendation should be detailed and positive; it’s better to turn the student down than to write a lukewarm letter for them.

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