Ask early.

There is no point in telling your reference you’ve listed them as a reference after you’ve submitted your scholarship application. Chances are the scholarship administrator will be uber-efficient and check references early, perhaps even as a way of sorting the wheat from the chaff! And there is nothing worse than your reference caught off-guard with nothing nice to say about you. Ask them in good time so they’re prepared for the inevitable phone call. Or if they turn you down or are unavailable – they might be going on an overseas holiday – you’ve got time to find someone else.

Asking early is especially important if written references are required. Remember teachers tend to have a lot on their plate and writing you a reference may not be top of their to-do list – especially when they may have been approached by many other students as well.

Ask nicely.

Remember, your chosen referee is doing you a favour – they don’t have to provide you with a reference.  What they say about you may have a huge impact on whether or not you get the scholarship so it pays show how appreciative you are. A polite, sincere request will go a long way with most people.

Avoid your aunty.

It might seem tempting to ask your rellies to provide you with a letter of recommendation or act as your reference, but don’t! Thanks to the internet, and social media in particular, scholarship evaluators are well-versed in sussing out whether referees are friends or family members. While these people might have nice things to say about you, your application will lose credibility. This goes even if you have worked for, or been taught by a family member.

Choose carefully.

Think about what the scholarship is for and tailor your choice of referee accordingly. If the scholarship is for a particular subject, then it might be better to go for your teacher in that subject, rather than your ‘go to’ referee. Choosing a person who can talk about your abilities in a specific area will result in a more meaningful recommendation. If a more generic reference is required, a trusted teacher or mentor is usually a good bet.

Share the details.

Let your referee know what the scholarship is about and – without being pushy – what you’d like them to focus on in their testimony. Make sure they know all about you, including your full name, contact information and instructions of where to send the letter (if applicable).

Say thank you!

It is good manners to thank your referee regardless of whether you are successful or not (and if you are, then be sure to share the good news!) Chances are you will be applying for more scholarships over the next few years and you may need them to supply a reference again so it pays to keep them sweet!


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