Letters of recommendation are essential to the scholarship application process. To a scholarship provider, this is a great way to get the real scoop on you—although it can be tricky for you to figure out the right way to do this.
To help you out, check out these answers to five common questions about recommendations.
1. Can My Grandmother Write My Letter Of Recommendation?
As a rule of thumb, grandmas (and other family members) don't count.
Letters of recommendations are supposed to be an unbiased evaluation of you and your work. Teachers, mentors, community service supervisors, and employers are examples of the right kinds of people to ask for a letter of recommendation. Grandma loves you too much to be unbiased.
2. Help! My Teacher Asked Me To Write My Own Letter Of Recommendation. What Do I Do?
This one's easy: Find another teacher who is willing to write a letter of recommendation. That way, you don't have to worry about writing something you think the teacher will "approve." Instead, find someone who will give you the honest, great recommendation you deserve!
3. I Want To See What My Teacher Wrote About Me—Can I Ask To Read The Letter?
Yes, just ask for multiple copies of the letter.
If the letter of recommendation is required to be submitted in a sealed envelope (i.e., you can't read it), then simply ask the professor to give you two copies of the same letter of recommendation. Open one of them to read the letter. If it's complimentary and in your favor, submit the other.
I've never been a fan of "blind" letters of recommendation. As a student who is putting in the time and effort to apply for a scholarship (or anything for that matter), you should have the right to decide which professor has written the best letter of recommendation.
4. A Scholarship Deadline Is Coming Up Soon! Is It Too Late To Ask For A Letter Of Recommendation?
It's never too late to ask, but be sure to be forthcoming about the deadline.
I like to ask for letters of recommendation at least 1 month before they're due. Some teachers are particularly popular and constantly bombarded for recommendations. Others are simply absentminded and will have a hard time writing a really good letter of recommendation in a time crunch.
If you are pressed for time, reach out to at least two professors and explain the situation. Also, attach your résumé and a quick paragraph describing the scholarship and why you think you're a prime candidate to give the teacher an idea of what to highlight in their letter.
5. How Should I Ask For A Letter Of Recommendation?
The medium you use is up to you—email, face to face, carrier pigeon, or whatever method you feel is appropriate. However, it is important to remember to ask as early as possible and provide as much detail as possible.
Also, if you are going to be applying for more than one scholarship, you should ask for more than one letter of recommendation. I will often ask a professor to address the letter generically (like "Dear Scholarship Committee") and to give me five copies of the same letter. This way, when I find a scholarship that is due tomorrow, I don't have to worry about not having a letter of recommendation handy.