Common Rec Form Adopted By 3 Schools

The Graduate Management Admission Council’s push to establish a Common Letter of Recommendation Form for the MBA admissions process is bearing fruit, as three schools — Michigan Ross, NYU Stern, and Cornell Johnson — have adopted the Common LOR, Ross Director of Admissions Soojin Kwon says, with more expected to get on board soon. Another school, Stanford Graduate School of Business, has used the same open-ended questions on its form, a spokesperson says, and would consider using the GMAC Common LOR in future.

Announcing the launch of Ross’s 2017 application July 20, Kwon noted that an application to any of what she termed the “early adopter” schools would result in applicants’ recommenders answering the same questions and using the same rating grid, “not different ones for each school.”

Ross was one of a few business schools that worked closely with the GMAC this past year to develop a common rec to streamline the application process,” Kwon notes, adding that other schools are expected to follow the three early adopters “in the coming year.”

GMAC Director of Media Relations Jennifer Garfinkel said Monday (July 25) that GMAC is not tracking which schools are using the common LOR, but it is “helping to make them aware and connect them to this effort,” serving as a “convener” for schools interested in exploring adoption of the LOR. “The decision to use or not to use the LOR is a school-by-school decision as well as program-by-program within a school,” Garfinkel said in an email to Poets&Quants.


Addressing applicants, GMAC says on its website,, that the new form “is intended to save you and recommenders valuable time by providing a single set of recommendation questions for each participating school. This allows your recommenders to use the same answers for multiple letter submissions, alleviating the workload of having to answer different questions for each school multiple times. You benefit because it makes the ask for several different letters to be written on your behalf much easier.”

The form’s first section, approximately two pages long, asks for recommenders’ personal information. The second section, which fills parts of 10 pages, asks them to check boxes in a Leadership Assessment Grid comprised of “16 competencies and character traits that contribute to successful leadership,” grouped into five categories: Achievement, Influence, People, Personal Qualities, and Cognitive Abilities. Recommenders are asked to check the boxes that most closely align with the applicant’s behavior.

A sample from Section 2 of the new common LOR form

A sample from Section 2 of the new common LOR form

A third section asks the recommender for two 500-word descriptions of, first, the applicant’s principal strengths, and second, his or her response when given an important piece of constructive feedback.


Calling the development “long overdue,” consultant Linda Abraham, founder of, says the new form will be less work for applicants because it will involve managing only one form and one to three recommenders, instead of “the mess we had to date where different schools had different forms.”

“Either applicants had to ask for a really time-consuming favor from very busy people or have multiple recommenders to ease the burden on individual recommenders,” Abraham says. “It’s less work for recommenders to complete one form, albeit a moderately lengthy one. And for the schools it increases the likelihood that recommenders will actually be sharing their perspective on the applicant as opposed to the applicant drafting the recommendation for the recommenders signature or upload.”

Abraham calls it a “wonderful development for applicants, recommenders, and schools,” noting however that the  form is still on the long side, asking for two 500-word responses “in addition to several ratings and a host answer.”

“Another effect, good or bad,” she adds, “is that alumni status at a given school will probably matter less in choosing recommenders since they will eventually be writing for all schools participating in the program.”

Note: This story has been edited to reflect that Stanford has not, as of August 2016, adopted the GMAC Common LOR. Its previous inclusion among the “early adopter” schools was in error.