They are the only part of the application portfolio which is not (or not intended to be) written by the applicant. However, it happens that applicants write their own recommendations, as was confirmed by a survey of the Association of Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC). Certainly, this does not contribute to the best evaluation of your application.
But why do recommenders ask applicants to prepare their own recommendations?
There are two major reasons – lack of time and lack of information. However, applicants are able to manage both of these factors successfully in order to receive authentic and informative letters of support of their MBA or Master’s application.
Beyond any doubt, the people whom applicants normally approach with the request to be their recommenders are all busy professionals. Writing a recommendation letter for a business school takes between 30 and 40 minutes, including reading the instructions, accessing the forms, filling in the various tables in the forms and providing additional comments. If you have only two recommenders and you ask them to support your application to all schools where you are applying (normally between three and five), you are actually asking for several hours of their valuable time.
Certainly, each of your recommenders would like to put their name to an accurate and informative letter of reference. Also, bear in mind, that business schools may contact the recommenders to receive additional comments and details about your profile, experience and potential.
Here is some advice on how to make sure you have the letters of reference in time and of the best quality.
- Select more than two people to be your recommenders, if you are applying to more than one business school. In this way each of the recommenders will have to prepare just one or two letters of reference and you will take up to an hour of their time.
- Give your recommenders enough time. Do not press them two days before the deadline. To avoid delays and technical issues which may cause a failure in submitting the recommendations in time, ask them to be ready at least 10 days before the submission deadline.
- Give your recommenders a copy of your CV or resume with a clear two-sentence statement of why you are applying to this school. This will be helpful for them to gather the facts and figures they might need to use as supporting evidence of your qualities and achievements.
- In addition, provide the recommenders with a list of highlights showing the achievements, projects, budgets, challenges, etc. which you had while you were being supervised by the person who is writing the letter of reference.
- Provide all details and instructions about recommendations given by the business schools.
- Give them clear instructions where to click to access the recommendation forms, if they are online, as is often the case.
- Be available at any time to provide further details to your recommender.
- Thank your recommenders.
- Keep them informed about the progress of your application – i.e. invitation to an admissions interview, admission, scholarship award, etc. See all possible outcomes of your application here.
The next article of this series will focus on how to select the most appropriate recommenders and whose opinion Adcoms value most.
See the previous article of the series here