Some scholarships will ask you to submit letters of recommendation as part of your application packet. Scholarship committees request these letters in order to get another person's perspective on your strengths, experience and character.

Whom to Ask

Ask someone you know well and who is familiar with your interests and accomplishments to write your letter of recommendation. This could be a teacher, employer, community leader, religious leader or anyone who can provide the committee with specifics that will help committee members get to know you better.

Your recommendation-writer should be able to provide non-academic comments regarding your personality including interests, strengths, integrity, sense of humor, dependability, adaptability and interpersonal skills. Keep in mind who your audience will be when choosing the person you want to write a letter for you. Ask someone appropriate for the type of scholarship for which you are applying. For example, if you are applying for a veterinary scholarship and you already volunteer at an animal shelter, then your supervisor would be an excellent candidate for writing a letter of recommendation.

When to Ask

It is polite to give prospective letter-writers at least 3 weeks notice. This will allow them enough time to write a detailed and thoughtful letter. However, be prepared if someone tells you No. It is nothing to take personally. The reason might be that the person is too busy or does not know you well enough to write a strong letter of recommendation. For this reason, you should always have a backup list of prospective letter-writers.

Be Prepared

Give yourself enough time to have a conversation with your letter-writer. He/she is going to need to know details about the scholarship. You can consider this time an informal interview. Supply the letter-writer with information about yourself and responses to any essay questions that you will be submitting for the scholarship. Provide a written description of the scholarship and specific guidelines if the letter needs to be completed in a particular format.

Inform your letter-writer of other details, such as when the letter needs to be completed (is that a received-by date or postmarked date?), whether to give the letter to you or mail it directly to the scholarship committee, and the address where the letter should be sent. If the letter is going to be mailed for you, it is polite to provide an addressed, stamped envelope.

Follow Up

Chances are that your letter-writer is a busy person. It is best to send a reminder one week before the due date (e-mail or note). Once the letter has been written, it is always proper to send a Thank You note, handwritten if possible. You want the person to know that you appreciate all of the time and effort put into the recommendation.

As a courtesy, you should share with your letter-writer the results of your scholarship application (good or bad). Keep the person apprised of your activities, too, because the person may be able to assist you in your future educational and professional pursuits.