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Mastering the Letter of Recommendation

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For most graduate business school programs, providing at least one letter of recommendation is a key part of the application process.

A letter of recommendation (LOR) for graduate school helps admissions officials determine whether you are a strong candidate for their programs. Given its importance to the decision-making process, you want to be strategic about whom you select to provide a letter on your behalf. Representatives from some of the world’s leading universities give their quick thoughts on suggestions for asking for a letter of recommendation for your graduate business school application.

Featuring: Jon Kaplan, assistant dean director, Full-time MBA Program UC Irvine - Paul Merage School of Business; Steven Ji, aAssistant director, MBA Marketing Admissions and Financial Aid CEIBS; Virginie Fougea, director, MBA Recruitment and Admissions at INSEAD.

Consider the context of your relationships

When approaching people for your letter of recommendation for graduate school, Jon Kaplan, assistant dean and director of the Paul Merage School of Business at University of California – Irvine, suggests considering the context of your relationships.

“The best people to go to in terms of letters of recommendation are people that you’ve worked closely with in a business environment,” Kaplan notes. This allows for a compelling endorsement of how you’ll succeed in business school.

Since these are important relationships for your career, don’t forget to say thank you. Review other expert tips for the letter request process, like allowing plenty of notice before the deadline.

Value the quality of recommendation over title

Although it may be tempting to ask the person with the highest title in your team or functional area at work, a letter of recommendation from someone who can’t speak personally to your skills and attributes will fall short.

“Avoid using big people just for their high position,” Steven Ji says, assistant director of MBA marketing admissions at top-ranked international business school CEIBS. “If they don’t know you well, we find a gap in your application.”

As you think through all your options, avoid asking anyone who may write an unfavorable letter that would work against your application. LORs are meant to uplift your credentials, not undermine your potential.

Streamline the process for collecting your letters of recommendation

Even if you’re applying to multiple business schools and asking multiple contacts for letters of recommendation, the process doesn’t need to be daunting. The Common Letter of Recommendation improves the process for applicants and recommenders alike. Once your contacts have agreed to recommend you, learn what to expect with the Common LOR, including access to our free Common LOR template.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out other articles about letters of recommendation.