Recommendation Letters: Get Moving!

I recently read a Clear Admit article that offers tips on recommender selection, and started thinking about my own application process (link to Clear Admit article HERE – make sure you read this article. GREAT advice.)…

I had two advisors write on my behalf: the first was a professor with whom I had taken two classes – he wound up advising me on which classes to take in the finance program. Every so often I would pop into his office to ask about another class or professor, and he gave me sound advice about school and life after college. He understood my work ethic and how I would perform in the program, and was an obvious choice.

My other letter came from a mentor who really helped shape my undergraduate experience. He was not an academic advisor, but the director of the volunteer and leadership office at my school. He challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and really pushed me to become a better leader. We keep in touch from time to time and he was a huge part of my college career (it was a no-brainer that I wanted him to write my letter).

But not everyone has the time to join community service groups, and not everyone has a great relationship with one professor or advisor. Let’s face it – life is busy and what if you haven’t had a chance to foster lasting relationships with people outside of your classes?


You’re an MBA now (or you plan to be one very soon). These opportunities to foster relationships with people in different areas of your life are not a waste of time. At this point, you have to be able to market yourself and let people know who you really are – and that requires developing relationships with people you meet in your professional and personal lives. No one is going to vouch for you if you don’t give them good reason. And because you want to put your best foot forward in your applications, your recommendation letters cannot fall short.

So you want good, solid letters that paint you in a positive light? Focus on building a few good, solid relationships rather than trying to connect with every single person you meet. Unless you have political aspirations, you do not have to meet everyone (think about the last time you met someone at a party who kept scanning the room [for more important people] as you tried to hold a conversation – that was fun, right?). Be smart, and be sincere.

If you have absolutely no idea who can write a recommendation letter for you, join a group, club or team now, and get involved. Use your skills and abilities to better your new organization, and make sure that you keep your promises. Taking the initiative to add to your experiences will not only make you look better to certain programs, but you just might find someone who will vouch for you because you revamped your sports team’s marketing campaign, or because you helped put together a fundraising event for a charity organization, and came in under-budget. Whatever you are thinking to do, get moving. Now.

Lastly, don’t let snazzy labels distract you. A dazzling recommendation letter from your supervisor at a small firm will do more for you than the form letter you receive from the president of your organization whom you met in the elevator (once). You’re working hard on your applications, and each part should show how much you rock. Don’t let your recommendations hold you back!

Good luck 🙂

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