A Complete Guide on How to Write a Scholarship Recommendation Letter (2023/2024)

Dear readers, in this blog, I want to provide some tips on how to write a scholarship recommendation letter. This article is targeted towards supervisors or professors who have to write scholarship recommendation letter for their junior employees or students. However, as a scholarship applicant, you can also notify your referees or supervisors to make sure the critical elements are included in their letters of recommendation. In most of the scholarship or grant applications, you will be asked to provide one or multiple letter of recommendation or reference letter as part of the applications. Getting this right is critical for your scholarship application success so you should be aware of what a good recommendation or reference letter looks like.

Brandon from YourScholarGuide.com

1. What is a Scholarship Recommendation Letter?

As part of almost every scholarship application, applicants are required to submit one or multiple letter of recommendation (also known as letter of reference). It could be specified or not specified depending on the scholarship awarding body. In most cases, you will be asked to provide two types of recommendation letter.

a) What is an Academic Recommendation Letter?

An academic recommendation letter is a letter that describes a candidate’s academic experience and capability. Usually written by professors or teachers, the letter’s purpose is to provide a comprehensive overview of a candidate’s ability in terms of academic settings. Through the academic letter of recommendation, the scholarship committee is interested in whether the candidate’s academic capability, intellectual curiosity and academic track records are suitable and aligned with the requirements of the scholarship committee and study program.

b) What is a Professional Recommendation Letter?

A professional letter of recommendation is one that describes a candidate’s capability and personality in the work settings. Usually provided by supervisors or directors of company, the letter’s purpose is to touch on how the candidate behaves at work, work ethics, professional integrity, capability, teamwork and any achievements. Although not required in many of the scholarship applications, professional letter of reference is a major decision factor for some reputable scholarships such as the Chevening, Australian Awards and Fulbright.

How to Write A Scholarship Recommendation Letter
Writing a Scholarship Recommendation Letter

2. Purpose of a Scholarship Recommendation Letter or Reference Letter

The purpose of a scholarship recommendation letter is for the scholarship selection committee to use it as an external supporting factor in deciding whether a candidate is suitable for a scholarship or not. It forms part of the various decision factors used by the committee together with a candidate’s grade (academic transcript), work experience, personal statements and essays as well as the overall application form.

3. Format of a Strong Scholarship Recommendation Letter and Required Elements

A) Introduction of the Recommendation Letter

In the introduction, you should provide a concise introduction of yourself to the scholarship committee (e.g., if you are a director of a company, provide two to three sentences intro about yourself). You also need to include how you have known the candidate that you are writing the letter for (e.g., whether you are a direct supervisor or direct report or mentor to the candidate). And you will end the introduction section with why you are writing this letter (i.e., to provide your independent reference for the candidate through either professional or work settings for the purpose of the scholarship application process).

B) Body of the Recommendation Letter

The body of the recommendation letter will describe a comprehensive overview of the candidate’s ability in the context of the type of letter and what the scholarship committee is looking for. Here, as a reference provider, you should look at the scholarship’s mission and purpose before writing this section. Without knowing the context of the scholarship’s mission and purpose, it’s hard to provide an effective recommendation letter for the candidate.

Once you’ve figured out what factors are the scholarship committee looking for in a candidate, then provide details and assessment of the candidate through those criteria primarily. If the scholarship committee’s priority factor is leadership, then provide instances and your view on the candidate’s leadership capability and potential. Ideally, you want to touch on 4 or 5 qualities of the candidate and provide your view through specific examples and include the potential of the candidate wherever relevant.

C) Conclusion of the Recommendation Letter

The concluding paragraph should include a strong statement emphasizing your endorsement or recommendation of the candidate and a reiteration of your recommendation through a synthesis of the factors you mentioned in the body section.

4. Additional Tips on How to Write a Scholarship Recommendation Letter

Understand the organization that is providing the scholarship or grant and their mission.

As said in the body section of the recommendation letter, understanding the mission and purpose of the scholarship program is critical for writing a scholarship recommendation letter. Go to their main website and list down core criteria, mission and purpose and match them with the candidate’s abilities and experience.

Use an organization or professional letterhead format whenever possible.

You should use a professional letterhead wherever possible to increase the authority and credibility of the reference letter. Usually you will need to provide your signature together with a company seal.

Ask the beneficiary of the letter to proofread the letter before submission.

Once you have written the letter, it is a good idea to have the candidate proofread before submitting to the scholarship committee. This is to ensure that you include all that is being asked as part of the letter of recommendation.

5. Frequently Asked Questions on Scholarship Recommendation Letter

What does a scholarship selection committee looks for in an applicant?

This depends on the scholarship awarding committee and program. Usually criteria are leadership ability, academic ability, personal and social impact and the future plan of the candidate.

Who should be the recommendation provider or referee in a scholarship application?

Professors, teachers, direct supervisors, directors for are all suitable to provide a scholarship recommendation letter a candidate. The more higher level and closer the relationship is, the stronger the reference letter.

How long should a scholarship letter of recommendation be?

A scholarship letter of recommendation should typically take about 1-2 pages, not more than that.

More tips and resources on scholarship application

  • Top 10 Scholarships for International Students (Link)
  • A Complete Guide on How to Write a Scholarship Personal Statement (Link)