/How to Get a Killer Letter of Recommendation for a Scholarship Application

How to Get a Killer Letter of Recommendation for a Scholarship Application


Along with an essay and transcript, you’ll likely need a recommendation letter for your scholarship application. A strong letter can go a long way toward helping you get money for college.

Even though a teacher, coach or other adult will write the letter, there’s a lot you can do to make sure it stands out.

How to get an outstanding recommendation letter for a scholarship

Here’s how to go about getting a letter of recommendation for your scholarship application the right way. By taking these five steps, you’ll be that much closer to gaining financial support for college.

1. Find a teacher or mentor who knows you well
2. Ask at least a month before your deadline
3. Share all the details of the scholarship
4. Provide a thoughtful ‘brag sheet’ and resume
5. Follow up with a thank-you note

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. Choose someone who you’re close to who can speak to your strengths.

This person should agree to write you a customized letter, rather than a generic one they use for every student. Ideally, they should also 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 also 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 their junior year for recommendation letters they will need in the fall.

“Remember the adage ‘the early bird gets the worm,’” said JP Figdor, a director at college counseling company Empowerly. “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 their junior or senior years. These worksheets typically pose a number of personal questions, like:

What are some academic and personal achievements you’re most proud of?
What’s an experience that had a significant impact on you?
What three positive adjectives best describe you?
What are 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 covering the cost of college.

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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.

Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay 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.
 
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. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student 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 7.10% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $141.66 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $16,699.21. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 7/1/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

Important Disclosures for Earnest.
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Rates include 0.25% Auto Pay Discount
 
Explanation of Rates “With Autopay” (APD)
Rates shown include 0.25% APR discount when client agrees to make monthly principal and interest payments by automatic electronic payment. Use of autopay is not required to receive an Earnest loan.

Available Terms
For Cosigned loans – 5, 7, 10, 12, 15 years. 
Primary Only – 10, 12, 15 years

In school deferred payment is not available in AL, AZ, CA, FL, MA, MD, MI, ND, NY, PA, and WA).

.br-none br{display:none}4 Important Disclosures for Discover.
Discover Disclosures
Students who get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualify for a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
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Aggregate loan limits apply.
Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for the Discover Private Consolidation Loan and include an Auto Debit Reward. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 0.375% as of July 1, 2020. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Our lowest APR is only available to customers with the best credit and other factors. Your APR will be determined after you apply. It will be based on your credit history, which repayment option you choose and other factors, including your cosigner’s credit history (if applicable). Learn more about Discover Student Loans interest rates.
Get a variable interest rate from 2.37% APR to 6.14% APR (3-Month LIBOR + 2.00% to 3-Month LIBOR + 5.77%) for either a 10-year or 20-year repayment term. Or lock in a fixed interest rate from 3.99% APR to 7.49% APR for a 10-year repayment term or from 4.24% APR to 7.74% APR for a 20-year repayment term. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. The margin is based on your credit evaluation at the time of application and does not change. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 0.375% as of July 1, 2020. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both.

Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.
Important Disclosures for SoFi.
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UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.76% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.90% to 11.66% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.83% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.80% to 11.73% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.11% to 11.81% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.78% to 11.72% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.26% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.90% to 11.16% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 07/10/2020. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).

Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Ascent Disclosures

Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.

Competitive variable rates calculated monthly at the time of loan approval based on a margin plus the 1-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) rounded to the nearest 1/100th of a percent. The current LIBOR is 0.190%, which may adjust monthly. Your interest rate may increase or decrease, based on LIBOR monthly changes. Rates are effective as of 07/07/2020 and reflect an Automatic Payment Discount. Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month.(See Automatic Payment Discount Terms & Conditions.)

Undergraduate Loans: Variable rate loans have an Annual Percentage (APR) range between 2.73% – 13.01%. Fixed rate loans have an APR range between 3.62% and 14.50% based on your credit worthiness and your selected program. Rates reflect an Automatic Payment Discount of 0.25% (for Credit-Based Loans) on the lowest offered rate and a 2.00% (for Undergraduate Future Income-Based Loans ) discount on the highest offered rate. (See Undergraduate Loan repayment examples.)
Graduate Loans: Variable rate loans have an APR range between 5.33% and 11.42%. Fixed rate loans have an APR range between 6.14% and 11.92% based on your credit worthiness and your selected program. Rates reflect an Automatic Payment Discount of 0.25%. (See Graduate Loan repayment examples.)

Payments may be deferred. Subject to lender discretion, forbearance and/or deferment options may be available for borrowers who are encountering financial distress.
Making interest only or partial interest payments while in school will not reduce the principal balance of the loan. There are three (3) flexible in-school repayment options that include fully deferred, interest only and $25 minimum repayment. (See Undergraduate Loan repayment examples.)
Flexible repayment plans may be offered up to a fifteen (15) year repayment term for a variable rate loan and ten (10) year repayment term for a fixed rate loan. Students must be enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school. Minimum loan amount is $2,000.
Interest rate reduction of either 0.25% (for Credit-Based Loans) or 2.00% (for Undergraduate Future Income-Based Loans) applies only when the borrower and/or cosigner sign up for automatic payments and the payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account each month. The amount of the discount is dependent upon the loan product and credit history of the borrower at the time of application. Interest rate reduction(s) will not apply during periods when no payment is due, including periods of in-school, deferment, grace or forbearance, unless a regular payment amount has been arranged with the servicer. If you have two (2) consecutive returned payments for Nonsufficient Funds, we may cancel your automatic debit enrollment and you will lose the interest rate reduction. You will then need to re-qualify and re-enroll in automatic debit payments to receive the interest rate reduction.(See Automatic Payment Discount Terms & Conditions.)
All applicants (individual and cosigner) are required to complete a brief online financial literacy course as part of the application process to be eligible for funding.
Eligibility, loan amount and other loan terms are dependent on several factors, which may include: loan product, other financial aid, creditworthiness, school, program, graduation date, major, cost of attendance and other factors. Aggregate loan limits may apply. The cost of attendance is determined and certified by the educational institution.
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1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Click here for details. In order to be eligible for the 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward, borrower must meet the following criteria after graduation:

The student borrower has graduated from the degree program that the loan was used to fund.
The student borrower may change majors and/or transfer to a different school, but must obtain the same level of degree (e.g. – undergraduate or graduate)
The graduation date is more than 90 days and less than five (5) years after the date of the loan’s first disbursement.
Any loan that the student has borrowed under the Ascent loan is not more than 30-days delinquent or in a default status as of the graduation date and until any Graduation Reward is paid.

Students can apply to release their cosigner and continue with the loan in only their name after making the first 24 consecutive regularly scheduled full principal and interest payments on-time and meeting the other eligibility criteria to qualify for the loan without a cosigner.

* Application times vary depending on the applicant’s ability to supply the necessary information for submission.

Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).

 Rates are as of July 1, 2019 and include auto-pay discount. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

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