It’s not over just because you’ve got a few letters of recommendation clutched triumphantly in your sweaty palm. (Hey, don’t wrinkle them!) You’ll need more recommendations throughout your immediate life—and lots of them—so here’s my first big tip to ensure your smooth sailing in the future.
Before your journey is complete, you may have applied for twenty or more scholarships. The easiest plan is to just recycle the letters you’ve got, and re-use them again and again. Your people won’t have a problem with it, because they don’t want you coming back every other day and asking for a new recommendation letter!
A really good way to accelerate and catapult your “C” Student Express Package is to use the same recommendation letters over and over again, but before you hit the Xerox machine, discuss the matter of recycling with each of your recommenders and let them decide what level of reuse they feel comfortable taking part in. The matter is not as simple as asking the person not to date/sign the letter so that you can make photocopies for later. You will be much more successful in winning scholarships if your recommendation letters are personalized for each organization or type of award. Such an act obviously requires a lot of work from your recommenders, however, so if you are expecting some of them to represent you in EVERY application, you may encounter resistance. Candidly discuss the matter with your recommenders to be sure that everyone is aware of your recycling plans and is in agreement about the methods. Here are three systems for “recommendation recycling” that you might propose:
GOOD—Your recommender writes you a generic, undated letter addressed “Dear Scholarship Committee.” The letter talks about your awesome-ness in general, but does not mention any specifics about a particular scholarship. Some organizations will not accept letters like this, but if they do, you can print off a new copy, get it signed by the author, and then mail it.
BETTER—Your recommender writes your first letter, and gives you a copy of the digital file. He or she grants permission for you to change the date, salutation, and even some of the contents, to personalize the letter for use with other scholarships. When you finish your adaptations, the person will read over what you’ve written, and sign the bottom if everything looks good. In a case like this, you may need to ask your recommender for a stack of blank pages bearing his/her letterhead so you are equipped for each new printing.
BEST—If your recommender REALLY loves you, he or she might agree to personally compose a new letter for each scholarship application. You might remind this person that much of the content can remain the same each time; just a few small touches can change a letter from generic to specific and personalized.
Learning how to recycle and reuse recommendation letters will save you a lot of work throughout your upcoming educational experience. You may be able to use revised forms of these first scholarship letters for your college admission applications, to gain employment, or even for the future scholarships you will apply for once you’ve used up the ones you get now! Just be sure that the author of each letter is always aware of how you are using his/her recommendation. As you progress through life, and your high school guidance counselor’s praise no longer holds the same clout, you will already know how to manage your next set of recommendation letters.