Academic and professional letters of recommendation are decisive in many admission processes for international study programs and several scholarship calls. That is why I will give you the best advice that has helped me and my clients study and win scholarships abroad.
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What is a letter of recommendation for a Scholarship?
The letters of recommendation or references in academic processes and scholarships are a document in which a third party describes who he is, explains how he knows you and gives the reasons why he recommends you for the respective study or scholarship program.
In this way, the institution or the scholarship provider seeks a second opinion on what you propose, and thus verifies your character and your performance. In other words, the main function of the recommendation letter is to corroborate the information you have given in other documents (such as the CV and the Motivation Letter and obtain additional information about your profile.
Who should write Recommendation Letter for Scholarship?
Unlike what is generally believed, letters of recommendation need not be written by “important people” such as the dean of the faculty or the general manager of the company with whom you have worked.
Institutions want letters from people who have had direct contact with you and know your personality and performance firsthand. Therefore, when choosing a reference, it is best to opt for professors, thesis supervisors, bosses, or in some cases co-workers.
NOTE: These people may not know how to write a letter, want to make sure they give you what you need and/or don’t have the time to write it. Therefore you will be asked to give them guidance and even in some cases that you write a recommendation letter and make them read and sign later. Therefore, you can share and/or take into account the following tips:
Header Tips for Recommendation Letter
Recent date: Avoid delivering letters that you have previously requested for other calls and that are generic.
Title or motive: “Letter of Recommendation” or “Reference”
Targeted specifically to the program/scholarship provider: The letter of recommendation must explicitly state for whom it is demonstrating personalization and importance. That is why it is important to avoid things like: “To whom it may concern.” Some good examples are:
- Colleagues of the Faculty of Economic Sciences …”
- “Members of the admissions committee….”
- “University of ….”
Content Tips for Recommendation Letter
Your letter of recommendation should contain the following elements:
Reason: The person who recommends you explains the reasons why you are going and explicitly mentions the program to which he is recommending you.
Who he is and how he knows you: The person who recommends you should mention his position, the institution he works with and the relationship he has with you. For example:
- “As a teacher of the course of International Relations of the National University …”
- “David was my student for the class of…”
Description of the program or work: It is important that the reference contextualizes the reader about the nature of the program or the work performed by the person whom he recommends. And in this way give it the importance it deserves. For example:
- “The Mechanical Engineering program requires about 20 hours of study …”
- “Teamwork is essential to develop these activities …”
- “It’s a position with a lot of responsibility since …”
The reasons why he recommends you: Very related to the previous one, here the person who recommends you describes your personality, academic and/or professional skills that make you the ideal candidate for the program to which you are applying. For example:
- Pepe showed … and good handling of… .. ”
- “During the time that Juana worked with me, she stood out for her…. Y ….”
- “I recognize Pepe as a person….,…. Y …..”
- “Joan managed …”
Recommendation reinforcement: In the final part of the letter the person who recommends you should emphasize that you are the right person for the program you are applying with things like:
- “I’m sure Pepe will bring great value to the program of … … and university x”
- “I strongly believe that Juana… ..”
- “He is also … and …”
For more information and dismissal: It is a good idea that the person who recommends you is open to answer questions by the selection committee and therefore must demonstrate it at the end of the letter with things like:
- “For more questions, do not hesitate to contact me”
- “I will be willing to solve the questions you may have”
Tips to get very good letters of recommendation for scholarship
Ask for them in time: The people who are going to write your letter of recommendation will most likely have several responsibilities and therefore will need at least 1 month to write your letter of motivation. Keep that time in mind and the application deadline so you can send all the complete documentation on time.
Share your CV and motivation letter to these people: Ideally, the people who are going to write your letter of recommendation know what you have done and your motivation to be part of the program to which you apply. Therefore it is highly recommended that you meet with them to share your experience and plans, or to share documents such as your curriculum vitae and motivation letter.
For academic recommendation letters: If you graduated more than 2 years ago and have not kept in touch with your professors, you must be very careful in the person you choose to serve as a reference and the way you approach him to ask for it.
You can think of teachers with whom you stood out or with whom you had the greatest contact so that when you contact them and tell them that it is you, they can remember you more easily.
I recommend that before asking anything you make some initial contacts to resume the relationship . You can achieve this through an email, a phone call or even a personal visit to update the person in what you have done during the time that has passed, tell them your plans to continue your studies and ask about their opinion.
Formatting Tips for Scholarship Recommendation Letter
It complies with the guidelines that you are asked for: For example, in some cases the institution may ask you that the letter of recommendation be in a previously defined format, that it be written by specific people and / or that it be sent in a sealed envelope. If so, follow those instructions because they are application requirements that, if not met, can mean your immediate disqualification.
Language: If it is for an English program, it is ideal that it be written in that language and that the person serving as a reference can answer questions in that language. However, it is not mandatory that it be handled in this way because you can attach an official translation to your letter of recommendation.
Size: It is recommended that the letter of recommendation be between 1 and maximum 1.5 pages in Times New Roman , Arial or Calibri , size 12 and with normal spacing and margins. This way you make sure it is concrete but descriptive enough.
Letterhead: Ideally, the letter should be written on a letterhead of the institution to which the teacher belongs or the organization where your boss works. This gives the document more formality and therefore more confidence.
Contact information: The letter must clearly include the telephone, postal address and email of the person who recommends you. In this way, the evaluating institution is given the opportunity to contact the person who recommends you to verify the information.