Summer's almost here and the rush of admissions and scholarship applications has died down. Soon, you'll hopefully be accepting scholarship awards left and right. But even then, there's still one vital step in the process: the thank-you letter.
Taking the time to send a written note of thanks to the sponsor of your scholarship lets them know exactly how much you appreciate their gift to you, and their ongoing generous support of students. And the task of writing thank-you letters is actually a quick, simple process with some hidden benefits. Here's how to make it easy.
[Find advice and information in our Paying for College center.]
1. Put away the computer and grab a pen: The best thank-you letters are those that are handwritten. With most applications being submitted via email or an online form, a handwritten note on resume-quality paper is a great way for sponsors to feel a little more personally connected to you.
You're the student they've chosen to support - no matter what words you use to say thanks, they'll be impressed by the fact that you've taken the time to write a note by hand. (If your handwriting is truly, illegibly terrible, you can make an exception and type your letter, but make sure you sign and address it by hand.)
2. Take a practice run: There's nothing more frustrating than composing a perfectly constructed, beautifully worded letter on your nicest stationery - and then running out of room before you're done.
Whether you're using "thank you" note cards or full sheets of paper, we recommend writing your first draft on scratch paper in the appropriate size. That way, you'll ensure that you have enough space, and you can cross out and reword and modify until you're totally happy with the result.
3. Don't skimp on the details: As for what your letter should actually say: keep it simple, detailed and all about you. As we said before, you are the student that the sponsor has chosen to support, and you're who they want to know about.
Start with a basic sentence of thanks for their scholarship (and double-check that you get the name of the scholarship right); then go on to tell them exactly how the money will benefit you.
Something like this is perfect: "Your $2,500 award will cover my fall semester's tuition at Great State University, giving me time to row on the crew team while pursuing my pre-law coursework."
[Get more tips on what to say in a scholarship thank-you.]
4. Get it in the right hands: When it comes to addressing your letter, we recommend you go right to the top. If your scholarship was sponsored by a local or national company, find the name of the president or CEO and the address of the corporate headquarters.
If it was provided by a community or scholarship foundation, do the same for the executive director. Either way, address your salutation to "Dear Mr. or Ms. Last Name." Sometimes, you won't be able to find a specific name; in that case, address your thank-you to the scholarship selection committee instead.
After all, you've probably heard your parents complain about mail being nothing but bills, advertising and junk. It's no different in most offices - and that means that your handwritten letter will be a refreshing break from the routine.
5. Be willing to share: At my organization, Scholarship America, we love to share thank-you letters and success stories from our recipients, but once they head off to college they can be tough to track down. If you're okay with your scholarship sponsor sharing your story, include a sentence or two in your thank-you letter that gives them permission to do so.
By telling the story of a real student like you, companies can illustrate the impact of their gift, which will help them raise more money and help more students in the future.
[Learn how social media can help your scholarship search.]
If you want to help even further, you can follow up (but not replace) your letter by thanking the sponsor on Twitter and Facebook, too. Those informal, public thanks can be shared by the sponsor to encourage more students to apply. And, if you're wondering what's in it for you: they'll also be a nice addition to the search results when future sponsors or admissions officers Google your name!
Matt Konrad has been with Scholarship America since 2005. He is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota and a former scholarship recipient.