Business School application series: Make the most of your recommendations with these 5 tips

Your recommendations should complement everything else you have already written in other parts of your application. This gives the Admissions Committee a relatively unbiased view of your suitability for the program. A few things to note:

1.         Give them time

Pick your recommenders early and give them enough time to write a great recommendation for you. I would suggest at least 1 – 2 months’ notice, especially if they are doing more than one school recommendation for you.

2.         Follow up

Let them know the schools you are applying to and their application deadlines. Follow up periodically so it does not fall off their radar. Do not assume that once you have informed them they will get it done quickly. People are busy and may need a nudge from time to time.

3.         Choose content over title

Unless specifically indicated by the school, do not worry too much about the status or title of people recommending you. Instead, choose people who know you well enough to write a strong recommendation with specific examples of how you are a great candidate for the respective programs.

4.         Make sure you are on the same page

Make sure they understand your motivations for Business School and highlight qualities that show you are a great candidate in their recommendation letters. You can give them a profile of the qualities each of your target schools is looking for in candidates (you can usually find this information on the school website), give specific examples of how you embody those qualities (ideally things they have witnessed themselves and can therefore speak to) and point out the qualities you would like to emphasize through your application.

This helps make it easier for them to write a recommendation that complements the rest of your application. If you have your resume and essay ready, you may also provide them to your recommenders so that they can better understand how you are presenting yourself to your target schools.

5.         Give them feedback

Probably a no-brainer but appreciate your recommenders and let them know the outcome of your applications. It says a lot that they support your future aspirations enough to take their time and effort to write recommendations for you.

A great business school recommendation letter provides invaluable insight into the strength of character, leadership skills and impact potential of a business school applicant. As with the rest of your application, the more specific, the better. Grand, sweeping compliments will not help nearly as much as specific anecdotes showing how you have displayed the qualities sought by your target schools.

If you have questions, drop a comment below or shoot me an email at and I will try my best to provide guidance or point you to appropriate resources.

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