Academic and professional letters of recommendation are decisive in many admission processes for international study programs and several calls for scholarships.
In this article I will give you the tips that have helped me and my clients to study abroad for free, leveraged by a model of a recommendation letter for a successful scholarship.
What is an academic and employment recommendation letter
The letters of recommendation or references in academic and scholarship processes are a document in which a third party describes who they are, explains how they know you, and gives the reasons why they recommend you for the respective study program or scholarship.
In this way, the institution or the grantor 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 that you have given in other documents (such as the CV and the Motivation Letter) and to obtain additional information about your profile.
Who should write the recommendation letter?
Contrary to popular belief, academic recommendation letters do not need to be written by “important people” like the dean of the faculty or the general manager of the multinational we work with.
Institutions want letters from people who have had direct contact with you and have first-hand knowledge of your personality and performance. For this reason, when choosing a reference, it is best to choose 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. That is why they will ask you to give them a guide and even in some cases to write it yourself so that they can later sign it. Therefore, you can share something with them and/or keep the following tips in mind.
How to make a Scholarship Recommendation Letter
Tips for writing the headline
Recent date: Avoid delivering letters that you have previously requested for other calls and that is generic.
Title or reason: “Letter of recommendation for scholarship” or “Academic reference”
Directed specifically to the offerer of the program/scholarship: The letter must explicitly say who it is for, thus demonstrating personalization and importance. For this reason, it is important to avoid things like: “To whom it may concern”. Some good examples are:
“Colleagues from the Faculty of Economic Sciences …”
“Members of the admissions committee….”
“University of ….”
Tips for writing content
Your recommendation letter should contain the following elements:
Reason: The person who recommends you explains the reasons for which they are going and explicitly mentions the program to which they are recommending you.
Who he is and how he knows you: The person who recommends you should mention her position, the institution with which he works, and the relationship they have with you. For example:
“As a teacher of the International Relations course at 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 you refer. And in this way give it the importance it deserves. For example:
“The Mechanical Engineering program requires around 20 hours of study …”
“Teamwork is essential to be able to develop these activities …”
“It is a position with a lot of responsibility since …”
The reasons why he recommends you:
Closely related to the previous one, here the person who recommends you describes your personal, 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 management of… .. ”
“During the time that Juana worked with me, she stood out for her….….”
“I recognize Pepe as a person….,….…..”
“Juana managed …”
Recommendation reinforcement: In the final part of the recommendation letter, it should be emphasized that you are the right person for the program you are applying to with things like:
“I am sure that Pepe will bring great value to the program of … .. and the university x”
“I firmly 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 answering 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 any questions you may have”
Tips to get good letters of recommendation
Ask for them in advance: the people who are going to write your letter of recommendation for a scholarship most likely have several responsibilities and therefore will need at least 1 month to write your motivation letter. 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 with 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. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you meet with them to share your experience and plans, or that you share documents such as your CV and motivation letter.
For academic recommendation letters: If you graduated more than 2 years ago and have not kept in contact with your professors, you should be very careful about who you choose to serve as a reference and how you approach them to ask.
You can think of teachers with whom you stood out or with whom you had more 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 on what you have done during the time that has passed, tell them about your plans to continue with your studies, and ask about their opinion.