Kellogg | Mr. PM To Tech Co.
GMAT 720, GPA 3.2
MIT Sloan | Mr. Electrical Agri-tech
GRE 324, GPA 4.0
MIT Sloan | Mr. Aker 22
GRE 332, GPA 3.4
Wharton | Ms. Product Manager
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Stanford GSB | Ms. Anthropologist
GMAT 740, GPA 3.3
Duke Fuqua | Ms. Consulting Research To Consultant
GMAT 710, GPA 4.0 (no GPA system, got first (highest) division )
Stanford GSB | Mr. Future Tech In Healthcare
GRE 313, GPA 2.0
Cornell Johnson | Ms. Environmental Sustainability
GMAT N/A, GPA 7.08
Harvard | Mr. Gay Singaporean Strategy Consultant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3
Stanford GSB | Ms. Creative Data Scientist
GMAT 710, GPA 3.0
UCLA Anderson | Mr. Military To MGMNT Consulting
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
MIT Sloan | Mr. Agri-Tech MBA
GRE 324, GPA 4.0
UCLA Anderson | Ms. Tech In HR
GMAT 640, GPA 3.23
Wharton | Mr. Data Scientist
GMAT 740, GPA 7.76/10
Harvard | Ms. Nurturing Sustainable Growth
GRE 300, GPA 3.4
MIT Sloan | Ms. Senior PM Unicorn
GMAT 700, GPA 3.18
Harvard | Mr. Lieutenant To Consultant
GMAT 760, GPA 3.7
Stanford GSB | Mr. “GMAT” Grimly Miserable At Tests
GMAT TBD - Aug. 31, GPA 3.9
Yale | Mr. IB To Strategy
GRE 321, GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. Overrepresented MBB Consultant (2+2)
GMAT 760, GPA 3.95
Kellogg | Ms. Freelance Hustler
GRE 312, GPA 4
Kellogg | Ms. Gap Fixer
GMAT 740, GPA 3.02
Harvard | Mr. Little Late For MBA
GRE 333, GPA 3.76
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Wellness Ethnographer
GRE 324, GPA 3.6
Wharton | Ms. Financial Real Estate
GMAT 720, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Mr. The Italian Dream Job
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
NYU Stern | Mr. Labor Market Analyst
GRE 320, GPA 3.4

Have You Chosen the Wrong Business School Recommender?

Karen Marks, president and founder of North Star Admissions Consulting

Karen Marks, president and founder of North Star Admissions Consulting

Asking for a recommendation is stressful. You are making yourself vulnerable and possibly learning what people really think of you. The news isn’t always good, but it’s crucial to pay attention to what your potential business school recommender is actually telegraphing. Here are signs that you have chosen the wrong business school recommender, and should ask someone else:

They seem super surprised.

If you hear any of these phrases, please choose another recommender. Worrisome reactions include but aren’t limited to: “Really, are you sure?” “Aren’t there people who know you better?” “We haven’t worked together for a long time, I can’t speak to your current skill set.” Although it may seem like you can still convince the recommender that they are a fabulous choice, you really don’t want to. They are trying to let you down in a nice way, and are also telling you that they can’t fully endorse you.

They ask you to write it.

This happens a lot, and sometimes the potential recommender really does think that you are great. Nevertheless, if someone tells you that they don’t have time to write your recommendation you need to find an alternative. It’s dishonest to draft your own letter, and potential grounds for rejection or revocation of admission. In addition, you need an advocate who can enhance your candidacy with additional insight and perspective. If you write the letter yourself your application will lack this critical spark.

They don’t understand why you are going to business school/don’t believe in MBA’s.

Many people apply to business school from non-traditional fields where MBA’s aren’t common, or have bosses who have excelled without the degree. If this is the case your potential recommender may not be sold on your plans. Although I would put this flag in the “maybe” category – meaning that you might be able to convince them that it’s a good idea for you to go to business school – please be aware that their inherent skepticism about the degree may come across as skepticism about YOU, as a candidate. The committee doesn’t know that the recommender doesn’t value the MBA degree, they will just read a lukewarm review and think that you aren’t all that compelling.

They say no.

Sometimes you ask your beloved mentor for a recommendation and they unexpectedly say no. Although disorienting, if this happens, please remember that it isn’t always about you. Your mentor might also be applying to business school, or their wife or sister might be applying. They might be having personal or health problems, be ready to quit or about to get fired. Regardless of the underlying reason, these are all still red flags! If your chosen business school recommender says no, please thank them graciously and move on.

Just because it was hard to ask does not mean that you should stick with a bad choice. Pivoting can make the difference between acceptance and denial. After all of your hard work, please pay attention to what they are telegraphing, and listen to your gut. Don’t let the wrong business school recommender derail your candidacy.

Karen Marks has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, Columbia, MIT, Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Wellesley, and more. Over the last three years, clients have been awarded more than $8.5 million in scholarships, and more than 90% have gotten into one of their top-choice schools.