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How to Get a Strong MBA Recommendation Letter

A strong recommendation letter can do wonders for your MBA application. Experts say that the recommendation letter gives admissions officers an outsider’s perspective into who you are and where you’re going.

“Getting that third-party perspective on [applicants] is really important to figure out their personality, their passions, and their goals,” Natalie Lahiff, an MBA admissions consultant with Solomon Admissions and a former admissions counselor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, tells Fortune. “The recommendation will either boost that application—or it could go the opposite way.”

But what exactly differentiates a strong recommendation letter from a weak one? Ilana Kowarski, a reporter at US News, recently spoke to experts on what key elements are needed to get a quality recommendation letter that can make all the difference.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT RECOMMENDER

When finding who will write your recommendation letter, experts say it’s critical to select someone who will advocate for you.

“It’s always best to choose someone who is willing to go to bat for you because they’re going to be the ones who will take the time to put together a very thoughtful letter,” Shaifali Aggarwal, a Harvard Business School graduate who is the founder and CEO of Ivy Groupe, an MBA admissions consulting firm, tells Fortune.

Additionally, you’ll want to be sure that your recommender can speak to your most recent achievements.

“Most schools want you to choose current and previous line managers, who know you well and can judge your professional performance,” David Simpson, recruitment and admissions director of the MBA and master’s in finance programs at London Business School, tells US News.

THE EARLIER THE BETTER

Writing a quality recommendation letter takes time. Reaching out to your recommenders early on not only gives them ample time to craft your letter, but also demonstrates that you are considerate and respectful of their time and effort.

“If you rush them, they will either be late submitting, or be annoyed and not be as positive as they might typically be,” David Simpson, recruitment and admissions director of the MBA and master’s in finance programs at London Business School, tells US News.

DISCUSS YOUR GOALS

Once you’ve selected someone to write your recommendation letter, you’ll want to make sure that you have an in-depth conversation detailing your goals behind pursuing an MBA. Having that conversation, experts say, can make the difference between a strong recommendation letter and a weak one.

“We encourage candidates to spend time with their recommenders – grab coffee or lunch – and share with them why you are interested in pursuing your MBA and why you are excited about the schools to which you are applying,” Whitney Kestner, senior director of admissions at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, tells US News.

Sources: US News, Fortune

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