MBA Admission Criteria - Your recommendations

Even most admissions officers don't know: A significant percentage of applicants to top B-schools write their own letters of recommendation.

It isn't that applicants are trying to cheat the game; the problem is that most recommenders don't want to take the time to write a long letter or fill in the "grid boxes" found in some recommendation forms. So they ask the applicant to do the dirty work and agree to sign the finished product.

What if I Don't Want My Employer to Know That I'm Leaving?

This is a tough situation, and schools hear this same question from hundreds of applicants every year. They always answer something like, "Well, just do the best you can."

How to write Letter of Recommendation

I've never heard a good answer to this question. My suggestion is that you get a recommendation from one of your customers, but that isn't always possible. The top schools want two recommendations (except Harvard, which asks for three). If you can't get the full quota, then send what you can get. That causes a lot of worry, but in the end I don't think it makes much difference. Just include a note stating why you can't get more recommendations. The schools will understand.

A Few Pointers on the Letters of Recommendation

There's an entire section on writing the recommendations at, Be sure to check that section out, though, after finishing the Seven Application Elements.

A Final Comment on the Letter of Recommendation

You may hear from some admissions people that they put a great deal of emphasis on letters of recommendation. I hope, for the sake of applicants, that they are bluffing to justify putting your recommender through an arduous process. The quality of your recommendation is so closely tied to your recommender's ability to write that it wouldn't be fair to place much emphasis on it. Some recommenders are very good writers, and some have even gone to top MBA schools and know what to write about. Others are terrible writers and don't know what the admissions people are looking for.

If you don't believe that the recommendation is more reflective of the writer than of the applicant, then have your boss write a letter for you. I'll make up a recommendation for your officemate. You can judge for yourself which candidate looks better on paper.