As an experienced member of scholarship selection committees, graduate school admissions, and a long-time academic, I understand the importance of writing a powerful scholarship recommendation letter for students.

A well-crafted recommendation can tip the scales in favor of a student, especially in a pool of strong contenders. So, let’s navigate this significant responsibility together.

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Why Your Scholarship Recommendation Matters

While judging scholarship essays and graduate school applications in the past, I can honestly say that recommendation letters meant a lot. It was easy to see when a referee believed in a student and when they did not. Of course, this influenced the way I perceived the application and the strength of an applicant.

Reviewing dozens of these letters also revealed something important; strong scholarship recommendation letters aren’t just a report of what a student has accomplished. A compelling letter finds the perfect blend of emphasizing past performance and future potential.

The Key Elements of a Scholarship Recommendation Letter

Any effective scholarship recommendation letter should address specific themes. In the following sections, I’ll discuss key components that should be present in every recommendation.

Reflect on Your Ability to Provide a Positive Recommendation

Before agreeing to write a letter, consider whether you can genuinely endorse the student. Over the years, I’ve received countless requests for recommendations. While many were easy to accommodate, others were more challenging due to the student’s performance in my class. It’s important to be honest about what you can contribute. Remember, a mediocre recommendation could harm a student’s chances of winning a scholarship.

Understand the Scholarship Committee’s Expectations

Your letter should reflect the scholarship committee’s expectations. Research the scholarship type, the reward amount, the application deadline, and the application process. If the scholarship emphasizes community service, ensure your letter includes the student’s volunteer work. A clear understanding of the scholarship requirements allows you to tailor your letter and offer pertinent information.

Establish Your Authority and Relationship with the Student

Your relationship with the student is crucial to your credibility as an assessor. Detail how you interacted with the student, highlight their performance, and discuss their attitude toward schoolwork or projects. Also, provide information about test scores and assignments. A detailed account of your association with the student enhances the weight of your recommendation.

Compare the Student to Others You’ve Known

To impress the scholarship committee, compare the student with others you have taught or mentored. Emphasize the student’s uniqueness and exceptional achievements, drawing from your vast experience working with many students.

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Make Your Letter Personal: The Importance of Examples

Specific examples make your letter more personal and impactful. It could be an outstanding essay they wrote, a project they worked on, or a class discussion they excelled in. Additionally, highlighting leadership or communication skills can greatly strengthen a recommendation.

Highlight the Student’s Potential

Scholarship recommendation letters should not just be laundry lists of achievements. Strong letters definitely do this, but they also go a step further to illuminate a student’s potential. By discussing their willingness to learn and grow, you show the committee that they’re investing in a promising student who will make a positive impact on their program or community.

The Power of Authenticity and Sincerity

Finally, a sincere and authentic voice is key to make your letter stand out. Rather than simply repeating information from a student’s résumé, let your enthusiasm for the student’s talents shine through. Use powerful phrases like “I wholeheartedly support this student’s application” or “I believe unequivocally in [student’s name]’s scholarship application.”

Crafting a sincere and persuasive scholarship recommendation letter is a big responsibility that can make a monumental difference for a student. So, embrace this opportunity and help your student soar toward their ambitions.

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Sample Scholarship Recommendation Letter

Below is a sample scholarship recommendation letter that tries to include the major themes outlined above. This letter of recommendation template aims to highlight a student’s academic capabilities for a college scholarship centered on academic performance.

Dear BridgesEDU Academic Scholarship Selection Committee,

I am pleased to provide this scholarship letter of recommendation for Emily. I sincerely believe that she would be an excellent ambassador of the BridgesEDU Academic Scholarship program and would adeptly espouse its values.

Emily was a student of mine in History 402: American History, and received a 92% (an A+ letter grade). The course, which operated in a seminar format, ran from September 2021 to April 2022. As the Course Director, I can comment on Emily’s academic abilities including her critical thinking, writing, and oral communication skills.

In small group settings that were designed to reflect upon and summarize academic articles and book chapters, Emily excelled. She was often a confident and valuable contributor to her peer discussions. She was also consistent in providing insightful critical analysis. Emily’s level of thought was easily one of the most advanced amongst her peers. Without reservation I can say that Emily’s contribution elevated the quality of our class discussions.

One of Emily’s most valuable qualities is her ability to think critically in both classroom discussions and writing. Emily’s final paper in my class was outstanding. Out of the thousands of undergraduate essays I have read, I would easily place her work in the top ten. In the paper, Emily examined archival material from the university library. She argued that music was the most important education mechanism in early 1900s rural America. The argument was unique and full of promise. In fact, I could easily see Emily thriving in a doctoral program with an emphasis on this very topic. I believe her academic skills merit this praise.

Given that your scholarship rewards academic achievement and future potential, I wholeheartedly offer Emily my highest recommendation for the BridgesEDU award. Without hesitation, I can say that she deserves the scholarship.

If you require any further commentary, please feel free to contact me during regular business hours. I have included my contact information below.



John Doe, Ph.D.

Professor, University of Examples

123 Any Street, Boston, MA, 01234

Use our AI Writer for Infinite Scholarship Recommendation Letter Examples

While you can use templates like the one above, AI has completely changed the game for writing a recommendation letter for a scholarship. The free BridgesEDU Scholarships AI Essay Writer can craft a sample recommendation letter in seconds. 

The best part is that you can brainstorm ideas with your specific student in mind. For example, you can ask the BridgesEDU Scholarships AI Essay Writer to write a letter of recommendation that highlights leadership skills, work ethic, financial need, or any other personal qualities that make your student a deserving candidate. 

Our AI platform can help you craft a strong scholarship recommendation letter in multiple ways. It can help you with:

  1. Brainstorming Ideas: AI can help you generate ideas for key points you might want to include in your letter based on your knowledge about the student.
  2. Writing Structure: Our AI platform can provide tips and best practices on how to structure a compelling recommendation letter.
  3. Content Suggestions: Based on your input, our AI can suggest specific content and language to use so that you highlight the student’s skills, accomplishments, and potential.
  4. Editing and Revision: After you’ve written a draft, the BridgesEDU Scholarships AI Essay Writer can provide suggestions for improving its clarity, tone, and grammar.
  5. Templates: If you’re unsure how to start, our AI platform can provide you with countless templates for a scholarship recommendation letter.

So, if you’re asked to write a scholarship recommendation letter and you’re not sure where to start, ask the BridgesEDU Scholarships AI Essay Writer for some ideas or examples. 

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Summary: The Key Steps to Writing a Scholarship Letter of Recommendation

  • Ensure you have valuable and positive comments to share about the student before agreeing to write a scholarship reference letter.
  • Understand the scholarship committee’s needs by doing preliminary research of the scholarship.
  • Showcase your qualifications and highlight why you are an appropriate person to vouch for the student’s abilities.
  • Compare the student with their peers and mention how the student’s performance stands out in comparison to others.
  • Provide specific examples from your firsthand experiences with the student to substantiate your statements.
  • Highlight the student’s potential for future success.
  • If you’re uncertain about where to begin or want some support, use the BridgesEDU Scholarships AI Essay Writer or a scholarship recommendation letter template to structure your thoughts.

Christopher Grafos, Ph.D., is the founder and chief scholarship mentor at BridgesEDU Scholarships.

He’s a first-generation university graduate whose life was transformed by education and winning scholarships. 

Scholarships help students financially, but they also help advance a student’s career. It’s his life’s work to champion this message and share the secrets to finding and winning scholarships. 

Read more about Christopher’s journey here