If you’re an MBA applicant to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, what does the admissions staff expect from the two recommenders it requires as part of your application?
Like most business schools, Wharton says that it prefers recommendations from people “who can speak directly about your aptitude for, or accomplishments in, leadership and management.” So work-related recommendations are far more valuable to Wharton’s admissions committee than academic ones.
The school advises applicants to select two people “who really know you and your work, who you believe can best address the questions asked, not the two most important people you know. If a Wharton graduate happens to be one of those two people, he or she may be able to use his or her understanding of Wharton to describe how you will fit into the Wharton culture. Please don’t seek out alumni who aren’t truly qualified to write about you.”
Adds Wharton: “Please make sure your recommenders understand that an effective recommendation is more than checking the right boxes and writing a couple of sentences. If the recommender believes that you are a good team player, he or she should present an example or two that illustrates that point. Useful recommendation letters are usually two to three pages long. You may want to brief your recommenders beforehand so they understand the competitive nature of the admissions process in which you are engaging.
“Applicants working in family businesses, entrepreneurial environments, or other nontraditional environments will need to be more creative in terms of choosing recommenders (and perhaps use the optional essay to allow us to understand how you made your choices). You may consider clients, mentors, or those that you have worked with in the community.”
Below are the recommender questions for the 2012-2013 application process:
1) How long have you known the applicant and describe your relationship to the applicant?
2) Provide an example of constructive feedback you have provided to the applicant. How did the applicant receive this feedback and what efforts did the applicant make to address the concern?
3) Please provide an example of a time when the applicant was particularly successful at interacting with others in a team (employees, peers, managers, etc.)? How does the applicant compare to his/her peers in this dimension?
4) How has the applicant’s career progressed and what sets them apart from their peers?
5) Is there anything else about this applicant that you would like us to know? (Optional)