Say Thank You After Receiving a Scholarship

Express gratitude to the person or organization that awarded you money for school.

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If you've recently received a scholarship award letter, it means you've done a whole bunch of things right: from your grades to your after-school activities to getting your scholarship application materials in on time. But there's one more thing to do: Write a thank you letter.

Just as you would thank someone who gave you a birthday or graduation gift, you should thank the person or organization who awarded your scholarship. Scholarship dollars should be treated as the gift they are. Scholarship sponsors want to know that their gift to you is appreciated.

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Stuck on how to get started? Here is a simple outline to help you out.

1. Get out your stationery. A hand-written note shows you were really touched by the gift, so touched that you want to thank your benefactor in a personal way. While hand-written is best, a typed letter signed by you is a good choice (especially if your handwriting isn't the greatest). Stay away from E-mail if possible; if you can't, make sure your E-mail is warm and appropriately personal (see number 4, below).

2. Properly address the letter. If you received a scholarship from your parents' place of business, consider addressing the letter to the president of the company. The same holds true if your scholarship was from another company in the community, such as Kohl's or AXA Foundation (the latter of which partners with U.S. News to provide AXA Achievement scholarships), whose scholarships are open to all students: Address your thank you to the president. For scholarships awarded by community foundations, alumni associations, or nonprofit groups such as Dollars for Scholars, address your letter to the executive director, board chairman, or president (whichever is the top title in that organization).

Once you've found the appropriate name and address, a simple salutation is best: "Dear Ms. Jones" followed by a comma. If you can't find the person's name, it is acceptable to substitute "Dear [name of organization or scholarship] selection committee" followed by a comma.

3. Start simple. "Thank you for the [name of] scholarship" is the best possible beginning.

4. Be personal. In your thank you letter, tell the scholarship sponsor what the award means to you. If it's enough to cover books for a semester, include that. If it means you won't have to work a part-time job (so you'll be able to spend more time on your studies), tell them. The scholarship sponsors want to see the impact of their financial investment in your future.

Example: "This $5,000 scholarship covers tuition for my upcoming academic year at Northwest Oregon State. As a result, I will be able to cut my hours waiting tables at the Pancake Hut, and spend more time on my academics and in the Marching Woodchucks drum line."

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5. Be more personal, if you have more to say. If you are the first person in your family to attend college, or if the gift will allow you to attend your first-choice school, for example, include that information. The more you can illustrate the importance of this scholarship award to you, the better.

6. Write legibly and spell everything correctly. You might consider drafting your letter before putting it on stationery, to ensure that you have enough room to write what you want to say.

7. If you're comfortable, allow the scholarship sponsor to share your letter. Sharing your letter with others enables the sponsor to better demonstrate the reasons why scholarship programs are important. At Scholarship America, we share students' stories (with permission from the students) to illustrate to prospective donors why they should considering making a financial contribution to a scholarship program. Hearing from you why your scholarship matters is much more compelling than hearing dry statistics and facts.

Example: "Please feel free to share my thanks and my story with others in your organization, including publications and online. I would be honored to help you raise more funds for more students."

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8. End with another simple thank you. Go ahead, repeat yourself. The person receiving your hand-written thank you letter won't mind.

9. Sign it. Sign your name after using the closing word or phrase that feels right to you (i.e., "Sincerely," "Best regards," "Most sincerely," etc.).

Congratulations on earning your scholarships, and good luck!

Janine Fugate joined Scholarship America in 2002. She is an alumna of the College of Saint Benedict, Saint Joseph, Minn., and is currently pursuing a Master of Public Affairs at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Fugate is the recipient of numerous scholarships at both the undergraduate and graduate level.