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Scholarship Etiquette - Application Request Letters, Thank You Notes, and More 

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Every interaction you have with a scholarship committee is an opportunity to impress or a chance to show just how little you care. How do you want to present yourself to potential scholarship judges? Make sure you put your best foot forward during the scholarship application process. Not only may it help you set yourself apart and demonstrate your merits as a quality scholarship candidate, but it's also good practice for down the road when you are applying for jobs and cultivating professional relationships. Good scholarship etiquette does not take a lot of time and may help you win scholarships.

The Scholarship Application Request Letter

It's likely your first interaction with the organization offering the scholarship... it's your scholarship application request letter. This letter does not need to be fancy. You should not spend hours crafting a scholarship application request letter, but taking a minute or two may help you avoid some pitfalls.

First off, make sure you get the name of the organization right! We ran our own scholarship here at and received countless letters thanking us for the opportunity to apply for a scholarship and requesting an application... many had a major problem, though. They were requesting an application for a different scholarship. Sure, most organizations will ignore it, send you an application, and forget about your error. But there may be a few who consider it a sign that you are not genuinely interested in their scholarship.

Second, we don't recommend using form letters from scholarship search sites, where the first line says something like... "While using the scholarship search features on [insert scholarship search engine name here], I learned about your award opportunity." These types of letters make it sound like this is the 1,000th letter you've sent off and that you may not have even read the eligibility requirements for the scholarship. (They also increase the likelihood that you will make mistake #1 above and include the wrong organization name.)

Finally, if you are requesting an organization send you a hard copy of the scholarship application form, it's often a good idea to include a self-addressed stamped envelope. (You might want to check and make sure the scholarship does not have an online application form before doing so.)

Want a little help? Check out our Sample Scholarship Application Request Letter.

Scholarship Thank-You Notes

If you are fortunate enough to win a scholarship, don't forget that some foundation, some person, or some college has generously provided the funding for your scholarship award. As we've stated before, the beauty of scholarships is that they are essentially free money for your education. The organization offering the scholarship is not looking for anything back from you... except maybe a thank-you. So take this opportunity and give them the thanks they deserve. It won't take you a lot of time and may help make someone's day (That good feeling may encourage a donor to give more money toward scholarships down the line).

We recommend either typing up your thank-you letter on a word-processing program or penning a hand-written note on nice stationary (assuming your hand-writing is legible). It may sound old fashioned, but a hard copy note signed by you will feel much more personal than an e-mail.

A few things you want to include in your letter:

  • The name of the donor(s) behind the scholarship. If there are multiple donors, you should send a letter to each, if possible.
  • The name of the person being honored, if the scholarship is a memorial scholarship (e.g., Ron Brown Scholarship). It is often good to make reference to the ideals of this person (presumably the person did some good stuff to have a scholarship named after them).
  • A little about your future plans. The scholarship committee wants to know they gave their money to someone who is going places and making a positive contribution. If you are about to be a freshmen, tell them where you are going to school and what you plan on studying. Are you going to be a teacher and tutor local students? Do you plan on volunteering at a local hospital near campus while you study pre-med?

Try and be prompt sending off your thank-you letter. Don't wait six months before you send them a letter. Also, if it's a renewable scholarship, we recommend sending a short thank-you note every year, keeping the scholarship committee up to date on how you are progressing at school and reaching your goals.

Take a look at our Sample Scholarship Thank-You Letter if you need some guidance.

Don't Forget All the People that Helped You with the Scholarship Process

You might also want to consider thank-you notes (or a verbal thank-you, at the very least) for all the school counselors, advisors, and teachers that helped you with your scholarship applications. Whether they edited scholarship essays, sent off transcripts, or helped uncover relevant scholarship awards, it is a good idea for you to show that their time and effort was appreciated.

A Little Kindness Never Hurts

It doesn't take a lot to express that you are genuinely interested in a scholarship and are genuinely thankful for winning a scholarship. It won't cost you more than the price of a stamp, an envelope, and a sheet of paper. And it's a good skill to start developing for later in life. So what's stopping you... show some scholarship etiquette.

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Anonymous Anonymous   October 28, 2008 at 2:00 AM

can u give another sample scholarship application letters???
so that the readers can gather more ideas on hoe to write an application letters for scholarships...

Anonymous Anonymous   March 8, 2009 at 1:34 PM

Great ideas on Thank you cards and letters. But I would like to see more examples of academic essays for scholarship awards.

Anonymous Anonymous   June 17, 2009 at 6:58 AM

It was great advice .show us some more examples

Anonymous Jim B   August 12, 2009 at 5:50 PM

Please don't ask for examples and use what the advice column is providing you to write your own letter. Get away from the cut and paste attitude and use your own mind for a change. Good grief.
-Jim B.

Anonymous Ashley   June 24, 2011 at 11:12 PM

No offense to you Jim but I find it rather rude to assume they are living in the "cut and paste attitude." The only thing these people want are examples because they want to be sure that they produce something of similar or better quality. Perhaps the directions aren't quite clear and they need an example to steer them in the right direction.

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