How to Get a Great College Scholarship or Job Reference

Janet Barger Credit Union Student ChoiceWritten by: Janet Barger of Student Choice

In today’s competitive college admissions scholarship awarding environment, how do you stand out?  How do you make an impression? One of the ways to set yourself apart when applying for admission, scholarships or grants (see my scholarship/grant article), or jobs (see Sharon’s jobs article), is to have a great reference or recommendation letter.

Yes, that’s right, having someone else sing your praises, bestow accolades, or “talk you up” may be the deciding factor in being admitted to the college of your choice, awarded that scholarship, or getting that job while you’re in school or after graduation.

How to get a reference or recommendation?

  • Create a good impression
  • Ask
  • Make it easy for them to create/provide
  • Thank them!
  • Follow-up with your success!

Creating a good impression

Always be sure to introduce yourself to teachers, guidance counselors, coaches and professors. If you have a part time job don’t forget to network with staff, managers and owners at your place of work. Get to know them and let them get to know you. Share your college and career goals, your aspirations and how your class, team, work, etc. makes them easier to attain. Work hard – whether in your studies, while volunteering, or at your workplace. Establishing a good rapport will simplify the next step.


Choose 3 or 4 people that would best represent you and provide the best assessment of your work or academics. You may want to segment your references based on need, for example, admissions recommendation vs. job reference. Then, ask for a recommendation or reference. Did you remember to ask your guidance counselor? Academic Advisor? Club Advisor or Sponsor? Boss? You get the idea.

Make it easy for them:

Provide your selectees with the tools to help them write the best letter of reference or complete the necessary form. Make sure you give them the requirements for the reference/recommendation – college admissions, awarding a scholarship, or the job duties/title. You might use the Student Choice Brag Sheet or even the Student Choice Parent Brag Sheet (for additional assistance check out ScholarHelp) to get more insight into your abilities, accomplishments, etc. For example, your math teacher may not know you are a soloist in the local choral group or church choir. Or, your supervisor where you volunteer does not know you also tutor English. Help them remember and recognize your many talents.

Thank them:

Send each reference a thank you note of appreciation! You may need to ask them for their services when you apply for scholarships throughout your college career or when you graduate and apply for jobs! You are establishing a rapport and developing a network of relationships. Yep, just like LinkedIn or Facebook – think about groups such as your high school or college alumni association.

Follow-up with your success:

Share your success with the references that helped you get awarded, admitted, or hired! The thank you note you send could include a short update on your progress. Even if you don’t get the job or the scholarships, letting them know may set you up for the next opportunity to ask! Think summer internship, campus job, post-graduation employment…

No matter whether you are a senior in high school or a senior in college, it is not too late to start bulding and cultivating relationships using the above steps to get the best recommendations from the best sources!

So now you know how to get a reference or recommendation – better get started. If you need more help, please use our ScholarHelp tool to touch base with experts that can help.

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2 thoughts on “How to Get a Great College Scholarship or Job Reference

  1. I love the “make it easy for them,” advice. I like to think from the other persons perspective. If I were asked to recommend somebody for something, would it inconvenience me or be a waste of my time? If they make it easy for me, I am more likely to oblige. Great stuff here!

  2. Pingback: Finding Free College Money – How to Score Scholarship Gold | Student Choice Blog

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