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The only portion of your MBA application that is totally out of your control is the submission of recommendations. 

 There are a lot of moving parts in the MBA application process, which is actually one of the drivers of stress throughout application season. One area that can be particularly stressful is rounding up recommenders.

 Getting a handle on who will submit your recommendations early is critical.

 Time and time again, we have seen solid application packages tainted with a mad scramble for half-hearted recommendations at the buzzer.  The reason this is so harmful, is that the recommendations are actually pretty weighty with the adcoms.  Why?  It’s the only third-party objectivity they get when evaluating your profile.  Long before they decide to invite you in (or not) to an interview, they thoughtfully consider what your recos say about you.

 Providing thoughtful insight from recommenders takes time.

 You can’t ask someone at the last second to whip out a recommendation, no matter how well they know you.  Everyone is frightfully busy, so even your biggest fan will need some time to marinate in your story before filling out a recommendation.  Sure, they can rank you highly on the questions with a scale, but when asked to write out their comments in narrative form, they will find themselves either without the motivation or at least without the margin to go deep if time is tight. 

 Choose recommenders who are willing to spend a little time with you in advance. 

 Early in the process, you should target five or six people (or more!) whom you can take to lunch or get on a phone call to talk about your plans for b-school and your career vision.  Recommenders are also  good mentors or guides for you and can often provide insights into your performance and past that can inform how you approach the application itself.  Choose recommenders who know you well and have supervised you in the workplace.  Adcoms will discount any peer-related reviews or others who have interacted with you in ways that were not supervisory.  Can’t ask your boss for some reason?  Make sure you explain that to the committee in your application. 

Don’t be afraid to go back into your past for a good recommendation.

 Adcoms are not concerned much about having all your recommendations come from interactions in the past year or two.  It would be far better to get someone from five or ten years ago if they have deeper insights into who you are and can write anecdotally about your achievements and impact.  Don’t be timid about reminding your recommenders about what you felt you did well, but also don’t be surprised if they shed some new light on what you did well---people are often surprised at the insight they glean from discussing this whole process with a thoughtful recommender. 


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