It’s a little while, now, since I’ve posted about how to get the best letters of recommendation. You might remember some tips I dished out a few months ago, like Don’t Ask Your Dog, choose people who honestly know a few nice things about you, and consider some “extra” qualities that make a good recommender. Here’s another piece of advice about your recommenders: hedge your bets.
If the scholarship application asks you to include two letters of recommendation, don’t just ask the top two people on your list. Make sure you have a third (and even fourth) back-up waiting in the wings in case one of your other deals falls through. Approach anybody and everybody who has a good relationship with you, and ask them to write you a letter. You can never have too many recommendations, and collecting a whole library of them will allow you to pick and choose the best portrayal of you for each individual scholarship. You may even find yourself pleasantly surprised when your auto mechanics instructor, who is the last person on your list, winds up being the person to provide the most stunning letter of recommendation!
But, what if the scholarship instructions ask people to MAIL in their recommendations? There are quite a few committees who want to receive the letters in this fashion (presumably so the author can be completely honest since you will never see the letter). You’ll want to make sure that the judges receive the same number of recommendation letters that they asked for, but that they aren’t flooded by extras, right? The trick to dealing with this little snag in your finely spun tapestry of organization is to make sure you approach your recommenders early during the scholarship application process. When you come across a committee who insists upon having your recommendations sent in by the individual authors, you will have already established a relationship with your group of expert letter writers. You will know who can be relied upon to hit the mailbox on time, or who will be open to simply signing a past letter that you’ve adapted on their behalf and sending it out while you are right there to witness the act.
Makes sense, right? Check back soon for yet more recommendations for finding the best recommenders.