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Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Never Underestimate the Letter of Recommendation
In a recent interview with four business school admissions "experts", the Wall Street Journal asked whether applicants were spending (or wasting) too much time focusing on a single aspect of their applications. The answers went down an unexpected path towards a discussion of letters of recommendation.

The overall consensus on such letters? Students aren't always picking the right recommenders. When they do, they aren't spending enough time with them. At least two on the interview panel suggested taking the recommender out to lunch. Some of the suggestions were even more obvious. Make sure your recommender knows why you want to go to business school.

While the recommendation letter isn't the deciding factor in admissions decisions, it does offer a unique perspective. Grades and test scores are generally objective markers of success. The application essay offers window into the applicant's character, but it is necessarily colored by the student's own spin. Everyone wants to use the essay to make themselves sound more appealing.

A letter of recommendation is thus the only component of the application that allows the subjective views of a third party to influence the admissions decision. However, students should take care to invest some time in their recommenders. They shouldn't assume that the highest-profile recommender will necessarily offer the best recommendation.

These experts want to hear from someone who really knows the candidate, and understands their strengths and weaknesses. An endorsement from a virtual stranger may come across as detached and unhelpful. A certain level of familiarity is essential if any letter is going to truly have impact. And how hard could it be to take someone to lunch?

For the full interview, click here: Wall Street Journal


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