Your scholarship application is due in ten days. It must have three recommendation letters attached, and, so far, you have not gotten any back from your teachers. A note to each of them last week hasn’t gotten any results. Talk about strained nerves. All the work to get the application ready, and now letters are halting the process.
This is a scenario that repeats itself hundreds and thousands of times each year. You can avoid this problem by taking important appropriate actions. Start by asking for your recommendation letters at least six weeks in advance. This allows busy teachers to take their time in writing great responses. After two weeks remind them with a note in their mailboxes. Seven days after that visit their classroom. Remind them in person that your application could be late and disqualified and that you will come by in a few days to pick it up. Thank him or her again and then stop by once more.
One way to avoid total mayhem is to ask for more letters than is needed (awards may vary in the number of letters needed the requirement is two for an award, ask for people.
If you are applying for more than a couple of scholarship awards (and you really should be), ask if the teacher or whoever would be willing to put their comments on a CD. Remind them that you will be sending out dozens of applications. It will save them time. Then, you will bring the letters for their signatures. They can inspect the documents before you send them in. A hand-written signature is always best.
Who should you ask? Does it make a difference? Yes, it does matter. Know this: English and foreign language teachers generally write the best letters. They personalize them and may write from a half to a whole page. They also produce results that have no spelling or grammatical errors. Again, and this is a general statement, coaches and physical education teachers write the shortest remarks and may have many mistakes in spelling and grammar. But, go with your best options regardless of your teaching position.
Remember to ask your teacher if they can write a positive response. If not, move on. A probable scholarship winner fulfilled all requirements with a big plus and was in line to receive an $8,000 award. Everything was super except for one recommendation letter. She assumed her coach would write a glowing response. He didn’t. Don’t let that happen to you. She didn’t win.
Follow the same timeline for all requests, and remember this: everything in life is a decision, make the right ones today for your college scholarship success.