Should I write my own recommendations?

OK.  I get this question all the time: should I write my business school recommendations for my boss?

It’s an important one.  When it comes to the app, you’ve got a few essential components, and the recommendations are definitely one of them.

Should you write my own recommendations? No. Of course not.

But I don't think that's the question any MBA applicant should really be asking. So let's dial in this question a bit more. A better question to ask is:

How much should I help with my recommendations? 

There are two fundamental levels to this. The first is moral. It's really how you would feel about lending any help at all. If it makes you uncomfortable, don't do it.  To many, it's a black and white decision with no shades of gray. I don't really agree with viewing the recommendation process through this lens, because even submitting a summary of accomplishments to him or her would constitute "help". As such, I’m not going to comment further on the moral piece here.

But – the second fundamental level is tactical, and in my opinion much more realistic.

And that, my friends, is my job to comment on. 

Ultimately, you want the admissions committee to see several unique perspectives about you. Remember that.  Key word: unique. Your essays and short-response answers will give them your perspective on you.  But the recommendations are meant to give them another set of perspectives.  Again – Unique perspectives.

Namely, not your own.

And there is a tactical reason for that.  They’ve already heard your voice, and even if your recommenders offered for you to write your own recs (it happens, trust me), I would demur.

Because we want adcom to hear about things that they wouldn’t hear about from you.  But – is it okay to give recommenders some reminders of past involvement and things that they should know about you.

By all means.  Definitely remind them.  But – be wary of giving too much guidance or help.  This is one of those times where too much ‘strategery’ may and often can backfire.  

I like to close all my posts with a pro-tip.

Pro-tip #358: Pick recommenders that know you well.  Not your 2nd grade teacher.  But if it’s down to the Senior Vice President you had coffee with once or the manager from your previous job that you’ve kept in close touch with, go with the latter.  The important thing is, again, that they know you well.