Admissions Tips – Making the Most of Your Recommendation Letters

Aerial photo of the Simon School located on the University of Rochester River CampusAs the 2014 Simon School application deadlines approach, we are continuing a series of Admissions blogs designed to provide application tips that will help you submit the best possible application.  Here we discuss the role of Recommendation Letters, and offer tips to consider in your selection of recommenders along with what the Admissions Committee considers in our review of this part of the application.
by Rebekah Lewin, Assistant Dean of Admissions & Student Engagement

  • Recommendation letters/forms are requested in order to give the Admissions Committee additional insight into your career success and potential.  A recommendation letter highlights the personal/professional strengths and development areas of a candidate with specific details and examples.
  • The recommendation letter often provides the only independent assessment of your candidacy that is not provided by applicants, and should help the Committee gauge your future success not only in business school but ultimately in the workplace.
  • Choose your recommenders carefully.  You want to select a professional recommender (not an academic recommendation).  Ideally this would be your current or recent former supervisor.  Other suggestions: senior colleague, a client or someone who has served as your mentor.
  • Never choose a family member for a recommendation – even if you work for a family business.  In such cases a client or senior colleague (non-relative) would be a better choice for a recommendation.
  • Once you’ve identified your recommenders, take them to coffee or lunch.  First and foremost, ask if they have the time to “positively” recommend you for B-school and provide them with the expected timeline for completing this milestone.  Give them an “out” in case they might not be the right person to recommend you or may not have time to thoughtfully submit answers to the recommendation.   Bring your updated resume as well as a list of your accomplishments or past performance evaluations so that you can review everything with them.  Leave them a copy of each for reference as they write your recommendation.
  • Under no circumstances should you write your own recommendation letters, even if your recommender requests a “draft”.   The process is considered confidential and you are breaching the School’s honor code if you agree to this.  If the recommender is unable to take the time to write the recommendation, then perhaps they are not the right person to serve in this role.
  • If you are someone who is pursuing their MBA or MS directly from undergrad and you don’t have full-time work experience, select a supervisor from an internship or someone who has overseen your project work from community service or extracurricular organizations.
  • If you are unable to choose your current supervisor because you are not yet notifying your boss of your plans to pursue B-school, let the Admissions Committee know this in your optional essay of the application.
  • The title of the recommender is not important, specifically they need not be the CEO, CFO or other head of a company.  What’s most important is that you choose someone who has frequent contact with you and can specifically attest (with detailed examples) to your talents and accomplishments, how you relate to others, your decision-making and problem-solving skills, and even more specifically, your analytical problem-solving skills (with specific anecdotes).   Ultimately they need to be able to answer “What will you contribute to business school”?
  • Give your recommenders ample time to complete a recommendation (ideally at least 1 month).  That helps to avoid last minute delays where the recommender becomes an obstacle to meeting the school’s application timeline.

Comments (1)

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  1. Diane says:

    Thank you for this information. It is very helpful to my application process!