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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Scholarships: The Rec Letter

I was blessed to have three wonderful teachers write all of the recommendation letters I could ever need my senior year. Whether you need a rec letter for college, a job or a scholarship there are certain etiquette rules that you need to mind.



Ask Early
I asked my teachers at the end of my junior year (around May) because I knew that they would be in high demand. My alma mater had over 2,000 students (just juniors and seniors) on any given day which translated into teachers having a full slate of kids. What does that mean for you? 5A or not, your teachers will have other students asking them for recommendations and they can only take on so much. Be wise and ask in advance, two to three weeks minimum but as soon as school starts, ask. It may take some teachers a full month to write a letter. 

Don't be afraid of No
Sometimes you don't reach a teacher early enough and they already have too much on their plate or a community leader doesn't think they would be the right fit for you. That is okay! Move on and ask another person for a letter.

Be Organized
I gave every teacher a folder with a cover sheet, my resume, a short bio as well as a spreadsheet of which scholarships or colleges needed the letter, the deadline and the purpose of the scholarship (if needed). 

Cover Sheet (optional)
Here I went over what was included and thanked them for their time.

Resume
Your math teacher may see you every day but that doesn't mean s/he knows about your amazing soccer talent or your volunteer work at the animal shelter. A resume can help fill in the gaps when a teacher writes your letter.

A Short Bio
My former US History teacher told me about this gem! A resume can only say what you do, not why you do it. This is the place to explain your passion for animals or your desire to become a lawyer. Letting your teachers know what drives you can let scholarship committees or colleges understand you better.

Spreadsheet
However you choose to organize your information include the basics like the name of the organization and the due date. Always include the purpose. If it is a scholarship for being a leader, telling your teacher will remind them to amp up the section about how you stepped up in a club or created a project etc. * Teachers might just use the same letter for every scholarship/college regardless but they still enjoy knowing what they are writing for!

Say Thank You
A box of chocolates, a Starbucks gift card or a lovely set of new pens can never fully replace a handwritten card (but feel free to add them in).

Q&A Time

Who do I ask?
Teachers. Coaches. Pastors. Community Leaders. Anyone who would be able to write great things about you. So if you hated a language class but loved art, ask your art teacher not your Swedish instructor. I will say that you should probably have 3-4 go to people for recommendation letters. At least one History/English/Social Studies teacher and at least one Math/Science teacher.

How do they send the letters?
If they need to fill out an online form make sure to write out the link and send it via email. If it needs to be mailed, include a pre-stamped envelope with mailing information (ask that the sign the flap).

Can I look at the letter?
Never ask to see the letter. If they happen to show you that is fine but never request to see it. Why? Many scholarships request that you can't see the letter so your teachers can be truthful about you. This is why you picked great teachers who loved you! That way you eliminate having to worry so much!

How do I know if they sent the letter?
Just ask! Give them time of course to actually write but every couple of days before a deadline just remind them about the letter. If you need to ask for more be sure to just give them an updated spreadsheet with all of the needed information.

Did you find this helpful? Have any more questions about Recs? Ask below!

Start asking for recs!
Christle



2 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. A recommendation letter is where someone (a teacher, community leader or sponsor) writes a letter detailing your achievements, success and talks about your personality etc. It is for the person to explain to the college or the employees why you may or may not be a good fit.

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