Your cover letter is one of the first impressions that you can give a scholarship committee. Put your best foot forward with these tips.
BY ROBYN BARDGETT
One of the most important tools that you can include in your scholarship application is your cover letter. It’s not only an opportunity to further explain and outline what you’ve included in your scholarship application form but it also can show off your personality, according to Liz Ebbs-Brewer, recruitment services manager at Expertise Group Ltd. “The cover letter will probably be the reviewer’s first impression of you, so it’s important that it reflects you – but the most professional version of you,” she said.
That means it’s important to adopt a more formal writing style and avoid things like slang and acronyms. And it’s incredibly important that there are no errors. “Ideally, get a trusted individual to proofread it,” Ms Ebbs-Brewer said.
Ms Ebbs-Brewer offered these other points to consider:
• Avoid making your cover letter too short or too long. As a guide, it should be no more than two pages. Often one to 1½ pages is sufficient.
• Attach a formal cover letter in a separate Word document or PDF, rather than including your cover letter in the body of the e-mail.
• Avoid using unusual fonts. “There’s a time and a place for an edgy font, but it isn’t a cover letter,” Ms Ebbs-Brewer said. Stick to classics like Arial, Calibri and Helvetica.
• Avoid having your font be too small. Size 12 or 14 are suitable and consider how your document will read on multiple devices such as tablet, phone and laptop, and also print it out to make sure it is readable. “Many reviewers will print your cover letter and application rather than review electronically. They shouldn’t need a microscope to read it.”
But while the presentation and writing style should be clean and free of errors, it is also important to give plenty of thought to the substance of what is in your cover letter.
“A really good cover letter will always be tailored to the particular scholarship you’re applying to,” Ms Ebbs-Brewer said.
“Where possible, try your best to explain why you’d like to be considered for that particular scholarship. For example, some scholarship recipients get to take advantage of work experience at the scholarship organisation – you should talk about what that would mean to you and why.
“Similarly, if you have a particular connection to the organisation or foundation you’re applying to, you can tailor your cover letter to explain that.
“You’re applying for sizeable sums of money, and so it’s important to recognise that and ensure you put an appropriate amount of effort into every individual application.
“A stand-out cover letter is one that has clearly been given due time and attention. You want the reader to feel like this is the only scholarship you’ve applied to.”
Include information like who you are, why you’re applying for the scholarship and why you deserve the scholarship, but this is also an opportunity to make sure you stand out and not just duplicate the same information listed on your resume or the application.
“The letter is your opportunity to tell the reader more about your work experience, volunteering, hobbies and your academic qualifications. It allows you to present all this information on a more personal level to the reader, so they can understand exactly what the scholarship would mean to you,” Ms Ebbs-Brewer said.
Once your application has been sent, it’s also a good idea to follow up by phone, if appropriate, to check that everything has been received and continue to build an excellent relationship with the application reviewer.