Most of the documents required for a scholarship application are ones you already have on hand, such as examination results or CCA records, or something that you need to produce, such as a personal essay. However, there is one set of submissions that definitely must come from others – your testimonials.
What are testimonials? Specifically, they refer to a formal statement testifying to someone's character and qualifications. Testimonials can come from anyone you have experience working or studying with, but in the case of scholarships, you would be looking at academic testimonials from lecturers or teachers in particular. From these, most scholarship applications require at least two testimonials, ideally submitted together with the rest of the application.
For many of you, it may be the first time asking for a testimonial, so we have prepared a simple guide regarding the process.
Remind them who you are.
Lecturers teach hundreds of students per semester, so remind your potential referee who you are when sending off that first email. We recommend mentioning your name and the class you took with this person in the first line of the message, before going on to your request.
If you can make the request in person, even better! Be sure to note it down and send a reminder message within the next few days, referencing the conversation in which they agreed to be your referee.
Be clear about your request.
In your initial message, be sure to include the details of what scholarship you are applying for. This way, your lecturer will know what to write about. He or she may even have specific moments or achievements that they wish to emphasise, to help you with your application.
Make a summary document.
When applying for scholarships, the most convincing references have a fair amount of detail to support any assertions. Help your lecturer recall who you are and what you did by sending a summary document together with your request. This could be a simple list in point form with your awards and achievements, or a short paragraph.
Send supporting documents.
Alongside this summary document, send over your resume and cover letter as well. These will give your lecturer a more holistic picture of what you are like outside the classroom. They can also refer to it when considering which of your skills or traits to emphasise in their own referral.
Give them time.
Academic staff are often inundated with reference requests that come at the end of term, so be sure to budget for delays in getting back to you. Ideally, you should start asking for testimonials several weeks in advance of when the semester ends or the scholarship application window opens. That way, you will likely have received it by the time you wish to apply.
Thank them for the referral.
When you receive the testimonial, be sure to thank them for their time! After all, a lecturer is not obliged to write a referral for you. It is something done out of goodwill and should be received as such.
Write a short thank-you note and send it off.
Keep them updated.
Once you have finished applying, be sure to let your referees know. They will like to be informed of the progress, and if you get the scholarship, they can celebrate with you! They may also have other recommendations for scholarships, or be able to link you up with other relevant people, so keeping in touch is definitely to your advantage.
Now that you know how to obtain a testimonial, don’t wait! Apply on BrightSparks and start sending those requests!