24 Templates for Writing a Letter of Recommendation for a Scholarship
Watching your high school students get ready to graduate can be an emotional time of year for any teacher, advisor, or family friend. That’s especially true if you’re taking an active role in helping them apply for colleges or scholarships.
Getting asked to write letters of recommendation can be equal parts flattering and daunting. Crafting a convincing scholarship application letter requires a unique set of skills as well as insight into a student’s personal character and academic performance. But if you write them well, letters of recommendation can set your student apart from the crowd. To help make your job easier, we compiled this list of 24 templates to help you write reference letters for need-based awards, merit scholarships, and everything in between.
24 Scholarship recommendation letter templates
There’s nothing more formidable than a blank page. That’s where templates come in handy. Most of these templates are specifically for recommendation letters for scholarship programs. However, some of them are more general letters of recommendation for admission, for a job, or an internship program that can be made into scholarship letters with a bit of tweaking. Many of these are editable, printable, or downloadable. That means you can get straight to work adding details that will make your reference letter sing. It’s important not to just copy and paste, however, but use these as a jumping off point. Remember, the best letter of recommendation is the one that’s most personalized to the student. To get you started, here are 24 of our favorite templates for scholarship recommendations.
1. General letter from a teacher
This sample template, which focuses primarily on the student’s academic performance, is a great place to start. It’s useful whenever you need to provide a general letter of recommendation from a teacher, advisor, or other educator. Because this letter also highlights a student’s financial need, it helps build a complete case as to why they deserve a scholarship.
2. General letter with an academic focus
It’s imperative to highlight a student’s academic achievements when writing a letter of recommendation. Many reviewers like to focus on extracurricular activities, leadership skills, or other intangibles. But if your applicant is applying to a top-tier program that prizes academic rigor, this template will be helpful as you set out to write.
3. General letter with a financial focus
Scholarships are important for all types of students, and particularly those with financial needs. This sample scholarship recommendation letter highlights a student’s achievements in the classroom while also touching upon how much the scholarship would mean for them financially. If your applicant has significant financial needs, take a look at this example for inspiration.
4. Short general letter
As Shakespeare wrote, brevity is the soul of wit. For reviewers looking for a more succinct template for their reference letter, this one is perfect. This letter manages to cover all the key components of a strong letter while still keeping things short and sweet.
5. Short general letter with a focus on extracurricular activities
Designed to be written by a student’s coach or P.E. teacher, this letter touches on a few key points without getting too wordy. In it, you’ll address a student’s extracurricular success, community service projects, and future career goals, in addition to financial need. If your letter has a strict word limit, this template could be a great place to start.
6. Letter for a prestigious award
If your student is applying for a highly-coveted scholarship, this template will help you craft a narrative that will convince even the most discriminating of selection committees. This letter is specifically tailored to a student applying for the Rhodes scholarship, but you can simply swap out “Rhodes” for any other prestigious award.
7. Letter for a prestigious award that also illustrates financial need
Many prestigious awards are need-blind, but some consider financial need in addition to a student’s merit. If you’re recommending a student for a competitive award but also want to touch on financial considerations, this template is for you. It balances a passionate belief in the student with pragmatic analysis of the economic help the scholarship could provide.
8. Letter from a mentor
If you’re writing a letter on behalf of a student you’ve mentored, this template could be a great choice. This letter speaks more broadly to a student’s character and achievements over a longer period of time, versus just highlighting their academic performance over the past year of school.
9. Letter from an employer
Many high school students hold part-time jobs, which can both demonstrate their determination and help them pay for college. If you employ high school students, you might be asked to write reference letters on their behalf. For employers looking to write effective reference letters for their young employees, this is an excellent format to follow.
10. Short letter from an employer
Some scholarship and college applications require a number of recommendation letters and don’t require them to be any specific length. This template demonstrates an effective, effusive letter of recommendation for an employee — and accomplishes all that in two short paragraphs.
11. Letter from a TA or Associate Professor
As a graduate student or associate professor, you might be asked to write on behalf of your students, even if you don’t teach them full-time. This sample scholarship recommendation letter is detailed, insightful, and personal, and could help your students continue their education at your institution.
12. Letter from a personal friend or family member
Some student scholarship programs request letters from personal friends or extended family members who can speak to a student’s character in a more intimate way. For those types of personal recommendations, this is a great template that balances honesty with effusiveness.
13. Letter from a religious leader
For scholarships with a faith component (like this one from the Christian Connector), you may need a letter of recommendation from a pastor or other religious figure. This sample document provides a helpful framework for writing about a student’s character and religious life. Though it’s not specifically tailored to a scholarship, it can be easily adjusted to suit your needs.
14. Letter for a study abroad scholarship
Studying abroad can be a great way to expand one’s horizons and learn through experience, but it often comes with a high price tag. Fortunately, there are many scholarships for students who hope to supplement their higher education with a semester abroad. If you’re writing a reference letter for this type of award, try this template.
15. Letter for a student-athlete
Coaches have unique insight into a student-athlete’s personality and character. This template is designed with ample space to expand upon your applicant’s work ethic and determination. It can be useful for college application letters as well as letters for student-athlete-specific scholarship programs.
16. Letter for a subject-specific scholarship program
This sample scholarship recommendation letter is designed for a student applying to a math scholarship program. However, this template can be customized to fit any subject-specific scholarship program your students might be applying to. Simply sub in whichever subject for math and find key examples to fit your subject.
17. Letter for a needs-based scholarship
Many scholarship programs are tailored to students who demonstrate need and might be seeking to fill a gap in their financial aid. If this sounds like the type of program you’re recommending a student for, check out this template.
18. Letter to highlight leadership skills
Many scholarship programs seek to award students who have demonstrated an ability to lead their peers. If your applicant is applying for an award like this, this letter should help you speak to a student’s leadership abilities both inside and outside the classroom.
19. Letter to highlight extracurricular activities
For scholarship programs related to a specific extracurricular activity or community service area, it’s important to have a letter that focuses on a student’s passion for that subject. This sample letter is customized to a student with a passion for the environment, but it can be personalized to fit any number of extracurricular interests.
20. Letter to highlight an artistic pursuit
Extracurricular activities like visual arts, theater, dance, and music can provide great material for writing about a student. This particular template uses a student’s love of dance to demonstrate her work ethic, care for others, and skill.
21. Letter to highlight a specific academic strength
In this sample letter, the teacher speaks with passion and gives specific examples of how this student outperforms their peers in the realm of literature, English, and creative writing. If you’re writing to highlight a single academic achievement or strength, consider this template a great blueprint.
22. Letter for an honor society program
Most honor society-type organizations prioritize academic achievement among their members, and many offer scholarships to help offset the cost of college tuition. For students seeking this type of award, this letter for a program sponsored by a legal honor society provides helpful insight.
23. Letter for graduate school
Students don’t just need letters of recommendations in their senior year of high school; there are many scholarships geared towards graduate students as well. If you’re recommending a student for a graduate program, try to speak to their undergraduate track record as well as their leadership skills. Graduate schools are often more selective than undergraduate programs, which means recommendations matter a lot. Fortunately, this template should help take some of the pressure off.
24. Letter for a position
Sometimes, scholarships come with work-study jobs or other employment opportunities. (This one from Goldman Sachs and this one from RealtyHop both come with potential job offers.) In these circumstances, it might be helpful to have a teacher or past employer speak about an applicant’s work ethic or ability to succeed in a corporate environment. This template is a great example of how to write this style of letter.
How to write a scholarship letter of recommendation
A good template isn’t the only thing you need to write a memorable scholarship recommendation letter. Below are some steps that anyone — even the busiest teachers — can follow to make the writing process quick, painless, and effective.
Step 1: Start by gathering all the information you need
If you’re writing multiple letters of recommendation, create a cheat sheet. This could be a simple spreadsheet or an online form that you can share when a student asks for a reference letter. This form should gather the student’s relevant personal information, educational priorities, and any other answers you might need before you begin writing. (The CommonApp also has created a “BragSheet” to help teachers, if you want to use theirs instead of creating your own.)
If you’re building your own document, make sure it gathers the following information:
- The student’s full name
- The student’s GPA and standardized test scores
- A full list of schools they’re applying to
- Whether the scholarship is needs-based or merit-based
- A list of the scholarship requirements and eligibility criteria
- Confirmation that the student meets all the requirements
- A URL to the scholarship website
- Why the student thinks they’d be a good fit for the scholarship
- A list of the student’s greatest achievements in high school (both inside and outside the classroom)
- A list of extracurricular activities, community service hours, and leadership positions held
- A copy of their scholarship essay or personal statement
- A description of the student’s educational aspirations and/or career goals
- The deadline for submission of your letter of recommendation
- Instructions for how to submit the letter of recommendation
Step 2: Use a letterhead and add your personal information
Selection committees look for reference letters that are convincing and professional. They should both give insight into a student’s abilities and demonstrate your authority. So, if your school, company, or organization has a letterhead, be sure to use it when printing (or emailing) your letter. At the top of the page, include your full name, title, and contact information, as well as the date.
Step 3: Use the right greeting
Letters of recommendation are formal, businesslike letters, sort of like cover letters written on someone else’s behalf. It’s proper to start these types of correspondences with the salutation “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” It’s also tradition to use a colon after the greeting instead of a comma.
Step 4: Start with an introduction (1 paragraph)
Your introductory paragraph is the place to acquaint yourself with the selection committee and describe your connection to the student. This is your opportunity to establish your relationship with the student and demonstrate why you’re qualified to speak on their behalf.
What context do you know the student in? If you’ve taught them in English for the past two years and coached them to a state championship in soccer, this is the place to include those details. Be sure to include how long you’ve known the applicant, particularly if you work with them outside of an academic capacity.
The introduction is also a great opportunity to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework on the scholarship — you know the award and can speak to how qualified your applicant is to receive it.
For example, you might write something to demonstrate that you understand how rigorous the selection process is and can assure the selection committee that your student has the academic record they need to be eligible. Additionally, if you have received this award (or a similar scholarship) in your academic career, this could be an excellent place to include that information.
Step 5: Write the body (3-4 paragraphs)
Think of your reference letter as a place to advocate for your applicant’s merit and how deserving they are of the award. The body paragraphs are the meat of your argument. Your task in these paragraphs is to expound on the applicant’s achievements and explain why they’re a deserving candidate. If you can, point out distinct traits, unique abilities, or examples of success to help your student stand out amid the sea of other applicants.
If you’re feeling stuck, try brainstorming some specific examples of times when the applicant demonstrated their creativity, resilience, or leadership skills.
- Did the applicant help other students when they struggled with the material?
- Did your student persevere in the face of adversity?
- Is there a circumstance where they took the initiative to start something new at your school, like a club or a recycling program?
Selection committees want to learn about students who not only have a stellar academic record, but are hard-working and well-rounded, too.
It’s also important to tailor each recommendation letter to the award. As you weigh the scholarship requirements against your recommendation letter, ask yourself: are there any additional comments or insights that might be helpful to include? If the requirements list community service as a defining factor, maybe there are additional comments you could include about your student’s volunteer experience.
All that said, don’t put too much stress on yourself to make the letter perfect. As long as your recommendation is well-written and heartfelt, it will likely help increase the applicant’s chances of being selected for the scholarship.
Step 6: Sign off with your contact information
The conclusion is the place where you’ll wrap up all your praise and make your final argument. Underline your students’ strengths, personal qualities, and what sets them apart. Restate your reasons for endorsing the applicant to the committee and, most importantly, keep it short and sweet. There’s no need to rehash examples you included in your body paragraph. Think of the conclusion as the bite-sized version of the recommendation that allows the committee to walk away with a snapshot of why they should award your student with this scholarship.
At the end of your letter, you’ll also want to include your personal contact information so that the scholarship program or admissions committee can contact you if they have any further questions. Providing your mailing and email addresses should be sufficient.
FAQs about scholarship recommendation letters
Scholarship recommendation letters can vary widely depending on the type of award and its specific requirements. That said, these FAQs provide some helpful answers that apply to most scholarship reference letters.
How long should a scholarship recommendation letter be?
It depends. Typically, reference letters don’t need to be longer than a single page (usually between 300 and 500 words). Most scholarship selection committees will be reading numerous letters, so keeping your letter succinct is usually the best way to go.
However, if a strict word count isn’t stipulated, it’s usually acceptable to go slightly longer than a page if you need. Just make sure you’re using the space to share illustrative anecdotes or relevant examples, and not just repeating the same ideas.
Who can write a letter of recommendation for a scholarship?
The best person to write a scholarship letter is someone who can speak with authority about the student’s performance in some realm, whether that’s academic, athletic, or personal. Some scholarship programs request multiple types of letters, maybe one from a teacher and another from a personal friend. Other programs only accept letters from academic figures — like teachers, administrators, or advisors. For scholarship programs that focus on a particular skill, like athletics or arts, a coach or art teacher might be the best person to write the letter of reference.
What is a scholarship committee looking for in a letter of recommendation?
This depends on the scholarship program. However, most selection committees are hoping to hear about the student’s academic achievements, personal qualities, strength of character, willingness to work hard, and overall well-roundedness. If there are additional areas of focus, the scholarship website should list these.
What if I don’t feel qualified to write a reference letter for a student?
Just because a student asks you to write a recommendation letter doesn’t mean you’re required to say yes. Recommendation letters can be powerful tools, but only if they come from the right person.
If you can’t speak to a student’s performance and character, it might be better to decline. An impersonal or lukewarm reference letter doesn’t do much to help the applicant’s case, and they’d likely be better off finding an adult who can write about them with conviction. Likewise, if a student asks too close to a deadline or after you’ve already agreed to write for a handful of other students, it’s more than okay to say no.
Should the letter be digital or printed?
It depends. Each scholarship application has different requirements. Some might ask for all scholarship materials to be printed, signed, and mailed directly to the scholarship office, while other programs might require digital submissions. Check the scholarship requirements and decide how to proceed from there.
Help your students find more scholarships
Being asked to write a scholarship letter of reference is an honor. It means your student or employee trusts you and values your perspective. That said, writing reference letters can also be a lot of work. Using a good template can take a lot of the pressure off. It can also help to keep in mind that your letter doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect. The most important thing is to write from the heart; that can win over even the most difficult of selection committees.
If you want to help your student or employee find even more scholarships, consider pointing them to a platform like Going Merry. At Going Merry, we curate lists of promising awards specifically tailored to each student. All your student needs to do is sign up, complete a profile, and let us deliver scholarships they’re eligible for. So if you want to help your student find ways to afford the next chapter of their academic career, encourage them to sign up for Going Merry today.
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