The cost of getting an education in the United States continues to rise overall, making the use of scholarships and other financial aid necessary for most people. Some institutions that provide scholarships ask applicants to submit a letter of interest, also sometimes called a letter of request. These letters often determine whether an applicant will get the scholarship for which they apply and thus are crucial to education funding.
Depending on the organization providing the scholarship, a scholarship letter of interest may serve two purposes. The first is to let the scholarship committee know you would like more information about the scholarship available. With these letters, you still have to send a separate, formal application packet later. The second purpose of a scholarship letter of interest is to stand in as the actual scholarship application. These letters eliminate the need for further action by the applicant.
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At a bare minimum, a scholarship letter of interest introduces you and provides your contact information. It specifies the exact name of the scholarship for which you want to apply, as well as the semester or year to which the scholarship applies. The scholarship letter of interest should summarize your qualifications and why you think you deserve the award. Details about how the scholarship will contribute to your education also are appropriate. Scholarship committees expect you to close the letter politely, thanking the committee or scholarship organization for offering the scholarship, the work they've done and taking the time to review your letter.
If the scholarship letter of interest stands alone from a formal application, identify the exact information you still need about the scholarship or any related materials you would like, such as an application form. If the scholarship letter of interest replaces the application, you may add any supporting documents such as your transcripts or a personal statement, as specified in the scholarship application guidelines. Mention which documents you're including at the end of your letter.
Scholarship letters of interests are always formal affairs. Take the time to contact the scholarship committee and ask for the exact name of the person to whom you must address the letter -- don't just put "Dear Sir or Madam." Stick to plain 8.5 by 11, 20 or 24 weight letter paper that is white, off-white or cream. You may use any recognized business letter format -- don't indent paragraphs or double space each paragraph line, and left justify everything. Type the letter -- handwritten letters give the impression you weren't willing to take the time to make the letter professional, so leave the "personal" aspects of the letter to your explanation of need/interest rather than the script. Print using only black ink. Always proofread the letter prior to sending.
Scholarship committees simply do not have time to read every word of every scholarship letter of interest they get. It's much more likely they'll scan-read the document. Do the committee a favor and get to your points as quickly as possible. Consider using some limited bullet points to highlight your qualifications, achievements or career goals.
Before you submit a scholarship letter of interest, always contact the committee and verify that the scholarship still is available. Often, organizations fail to update the listings for scholarships on their websites, or the dollar amount and letter of interest mail-to address has changed.
Although it's acceptable to create your own form letter of interest to use for many scholarships, don't make the mistake of leaving data from previous scholarships in your new letters. Avoid form templates online, as they are noticeably generic.