Scholarships are one of the most valuable resources for students planning to pursue their higher education from abroad. With the help of a scholarship, students can lessen the financial burden on them and their families and focus solely on their academic learning process while studying at a university in a foreign land. 

To acquire a scholarship, a student needs to submit a well-rounded application package to the selection committee. This package in general includes a student’s academic transcripts, personal statements, and letter of recommendation. 

In this article, we will focus on how to draft a convincing letter of recommendation (LOR) for scholarship applications in abroad universities. Crafting an impactful recommendation letter can significantly increase your chances of acquiring a scholarship abroad, and the following article will help you learn the various aspects of how to draft a successful LOR. 

The role of a referee in a recommendation letter

A referee in a letter of recommendation for a scholarship is someone who knows you well professionally, academically or personally and can provide insight about your character, abilities and accomplishments. Referees could be teachers, employers, mentors or individuals in a position to evaluate your skills and potential. Referee's testimony is crucial in strengthening candidate's scholarship application.

If someone is willing to recommend a student for foreign education or scholarship purposes, their role as a referee holds a significant place, in supporting a student's pursuit of a scholarship. One of the foremost responsibilities of a referee in the recommendation process is to make the student stand out in front of the admissions and scholarship committee, through this formal document, which serves as an apt representation of the applicant’s character, his/her academic qualifications, and potential to succeed in a foreign land. 

Scholarship committees often require these letters to assess an applicant’s suitability for the award they are granting and look for qualities such as leadership, teamwork, community involvement, and personal integrity, apart from an applicant’s academic excellence and achievements. 

Writing the perfect letter of recommendation may seem a difficult task to many individuals but with the right inputs and approach, one can create a document that is impactful, convincing, and supports the applicant wholeheartedly for the intended reward. 

Who can provide a letter of recommendation for a candidate? 

Letters of recommendation are often requested from individuals who have observed the candidate in close quarters. This refers to individuals who have either direct work experience with the applicant, have supervised them in any capacity, or have known them academically in the capacity of their professor or faculty. 

In simpler words, current/former employers or professors can be considered as the ideal recommenders for a candidate applying for foreign education/ scholarship programs. 

Most of the scholarship applications abroad require at least two letters or recommendations. If you are a fresh graduate from school or university, you would be required to provide two academic references, while if you have any kind of professional experience post-education, one recommendation should ideally be academic and the other should be a professional recommendation.  

Key Elements of a Successful Letter of Recommendation (LOR)

Before one starts the process of writing a convincing letter of recommendation, one needs to understand the specific requirements of the scholarship for which they are asked to write a recommendation letter. 

Simultaneously, it is also very important for any referee that they know the candidate for which they are writing a recommendation, completely. To ensure this, they should ideally have a conversation with the applicant, and acquire clear details about their background and the scholarship opportunity in general. Based on this they should note down key points as to why they believe the candidate is an ideal candidate for this scholarship(The words referee and recommender are interchangeably used).

This initial conversation is highly important, as it allows the recommenders to establish a sense of trust in the draft that they will write down on behalf of the candidate. 

To achieve this, one can ask the candidate for their updated resume, which includes not just their academic achievements but also their extracurricular participation. It should also include specific qualities or experiences they would like you to highlight in the recommendation letter. Having this information will help the recommender to tailor the letter to the scholarship requirements and the student's strengths.

After the above-mentioned has been achieved, one needs to start with the draft of a recommendation letter. However, you need to keep a note of the below-mentioned elements which form an important part of this document – 

Establishing the recommender’s credentials – The first and the most important aspect of a recommendation letter is to establish the credentials of any recommender upfront. A recommender should ideally introduce themselves in the opening paragraph, along with stating their name, job title, and relationship with the student. One should also state for how long have they known the candidate and in what capacity. This helps the scholarship committee to understand their credibility as a recommender. 

Highlight the Student's Qualities – In the paragraphs that follow one needs to focus on the key skills and experiences that the student holds which makes him/her an ideal candidate for the scholarship program. To prove any claim, please use appropriate supporting examples from the candidate’s history. For instance - if the student is known for their leadership abilities, recount a specific instance where they demonstrated effective leadership in a project or extracurricular activity.

In addition to the above, also discuss the candidate’s academic excellence such as high grades or awards they have won during their study tenure, personal qualities such as how hardworking or creative they are, and their involvement in extracurricular activities. Lastly, a recommender should mention how according to them the candidate holds the potential for future success, and in what manner will the scholarship allow the candidate to pursue their academic and career goals. 

Address Any Weaknesses of the Candidate subtly – Even though any recommendation letter should focus mainly on the student’s strengths, it is also essential for the recommender to address any weaknesses or areas of improvement, that a candidate needs to work on. However, one does not need to put these forward negatively but rather in a constructive manner, showing that the student is self-aware and committed to improvement.

Write a strong conclusion – In the concluding paragraph, a recommender should express a strong recommendation as to why the student can be considered an apt candidate for gaining the scholarship. They should use confident language to recommend the candidate strongly for the scholarship and end the recommendation letter by providing their contact details at the end of the letter, including their email address and phone number. This allows the scholarship committee to reach out to the recommender if they have any follow-up questions or need further clarification.


Thus, it is clear that writing a recommendation letter for a scholarship is a significant responsibility, but it can also be a rewarding experience. A recommender’s words can assist any deserving candidate in achieving their educational goals in an impactful manner. 

By following the steps outlined in this article, one can craft a highly convincing recommendation letter that showcases the applicant's strengths and increases their chances of securing the scholarship they deserve.