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Tips for Securing a Strong MBA Recommendation Letter

A strong MBA recommendation letter can make or break your application.

“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 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.”

While applicants can’t write their own recommendation letters, they can set their recommenders up for success and ensure a strong letter. US News recently looked at what steps applicants should take if they hope to secure a quality letter of recommendation.

CHOOSE YOUR RECOMMENDERS WISELY

Most business schools require at least two recommendations. When choosing your recommenders, be sure to have each write a unique letter that highlights different skills and experience that you bring to the table.

“When you have the opportunity to submit two recommendations, you should pick two people who have seen your work on different projects or different types of work so they can highlight different strengths to the admissions committee,” Susan Cera, MBA admissions director at Stratus Admissions Counseling, tells US News. “You don’t want two people talking about precisely the same projects in the same way. That’s a missed opportunity.”

Ideally, you should pick a recommender who can speak strongly to your character and background. In other words, pick someone who knows you well.

“It is much less important to worry about getting the most senior person with the most impressive title to write a recommendation,” Lindsay Loyd, executive director of MBA admissions at New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business, tells US News. “It is much more important to get an endorsement from someone who knows your work well and can provide specific examples to illustrate your strengths.”

START THE PROCESS EARLY

The more time you give your recommenders, the better the letter will be. Most experts recommend to start conversations with four to six potential recommenders at least six months prior to applying.

“The idea of starting is tied to a date in which the application is due,” Yaa Boakye, an MBA student at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, tells US News. “I actually argue the start date is the moment you work with someone, the moment you start volunteering somewhere, whatever the context or capacity. You need to build that up as soon as possible.”

FOLLOW UP WITH YOUR RECOMMENDERS

It’s important to ensure your recommenders are adhering to your timeline. Be sure to maintain contact with each of your recommenders and provide necessary updates about projects you’ve completed or other noteworthy accomplishments.

“If you give your recommender three to six months and you do a lot of these milestones with checking in with them, having coffee, updating them, providing them more context, that letter is going to be so rich that there’s just no way, when someone is reading your letter, that they’re going to confuse you with someone who is slapping it together,” Boakye says.

Sources: US News, Fortune

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