I know it has been a while since I wrote but there are just way too many things that I am currently doing! Anyways, now that you have a lot of insight into the Application Game, you must be in a comfortable position to apply for the recommended deadlines. Now, as you work on those essays, it is wiser to dispatch off those links to the recommenders so that they can work on them.

Are you nuts… Who will recommend me?

Yeah, I know. I too felt the same way when I started off but trust me, it will be a lot simpler than you think if you know how to work around it. I suggest you start working on acquiring your recommendation early as it is one single thing that you don’t have a say in. Your recommenders may be too busy or too lazy to do a good job if you give them less lead time. When we talk about online applications, the recommendations will also be in an online format. Once you register and open an account with a particular school, you will have to dispatch recommendation links to your recommenders by entering their email ids. These recommenders get an email and they too get to access their online reco-form which does not require them to fill in one shot. They can take their sweet time and mull over a lot of things before they can press that ‘final’ submit button.

Recommendations are usually written by people who have worked with you on a professional front. They are used as boosters to your application. Your undergrad, GMAT, essays are all about you and your achievements but they are one-dimensional; the Adcom is interested in understanding how others feel about you. The recommendations should fortify your essays; they should prove that all your ‘tall’ claims in your essays are in fact true. Secondly, your managerial skills comes under scrutiny – choosing recommenders, getting them to offer their help, helping them to write something nice about you and insisting that they submit the recos before the deadline – all these and more call for a lot of patience and follow-up.

Generally, all TOP Business Schools ask for 2 recommendations or utmost 3. Though 3 is a rarity, some schools may allow you to judge for yourself the need for a third recommendation. Now, if you are a software engineer and have worked under two different project managers, then you can wisely choose these two as your recommenders. It will be a boon if one of the managers can talk about your technical and managerial skills while the other can talk about your team-work and selling skills. However if you are over-enthusiastic and try to use your team-lead for your third reco, then your decision/ judgment will be questioned. As the third recommendation should be ‘only’ used when you feel that there is something special about you that the first two recommenders cannot comment about. Let us say, an international client with whom you have closely worked on an over-seas project which helped you overcome some challenging tasks and allowed you to extensively use your foreign-language skills. Something that adds extra dimension; talks about something spectacular – it is almost like the decision you make for that ‘optional’ essay. Remember, that each and everything on your application is under close scrutiny, do not try to put a half-hearted effort into any one of the components.


In normal circumstances, only 2 recommenders will suffice. These two recommenders are usually from the professional side. Try to avoid the academic recommenders as much as you can because they tend to reiterate what is already visible on your undergrad scores/ transcripts. Do not use your parents, families or close friends as recommenders. Choose people who know you well, genuinely like you, really want to help you and who can safely grade you on the basis of your personality and intellectual ability. Only those who like you can go to the extent of seeing you in a Top B-school. And not everybody will be ready to spend some precious time to make your path to a school neat and tidy. The choice of recommenders you make will be closely studied by the Ad-com guys. The ideal recommenders should talk about most or all of the following – your leadership abilities, managerial potential, analytical skills, team-working skills, creativity, confidence and maturity.

There are always innumerable doubts with regards to using your current supervisor as your recommender. From my own experience, I can say that current boss recommendation is ideal as it portrays your present working skills and is also highly regarded by the  Admission guys. However if the recommendation from your immediate boss is risky, then don’t try it. Like you might be risking your job, a bonus or a promotion, then it is better to make a wise decision and choose someone more appropriate. Maybe a client or an ex-boss. The Admission guys are humans too and they do understand when you say that your current supervisor cannot be your recommender. In such a case, don’t forget to talk about your choice of recommenders in your optional essay. They need to know why you have not chosen the most-appropriate man. If you are working in a family business or if you are an entrepreneur, try to use some external references like your customers, your advisor etc who can provide some objective views. It is important for the recommenders to understand that this MBA application is important to you.

Some of the recommenders might be way too busy to write anything and might ask you to write it. Be wary. Admission people have been in this business of reading people in and out and after reading your 1000 word essays, it is not difficult for them to see that you yourself have written your recommendations. You will be axing your own foot in such a case. Encourage your recommenders by giving small write-ups about you, so that they can use it as a base and elaborate on them. Try your level best to keep up with them on a regular basis so that they can finish off each application before the deadline. Once they submit the recos, automatically the status in your online application changes but you won’t be able to read the contents of the recommendation form.
Assuming that all your recommendations forms are submitted in time (if they are not, it is your duty to get the recommenders to submit them!) then do not forget to thank these people. They have taken time off to write something good about you. Send them a small memento or flowers to show that you appreciate their concern and help. God forbid, you might need them for next fall. ?

About the authoress:

The authoress, Sowmya aka Simba is one of the moderators of PaGaLGuY forum. She is currently working with a leading telecom provider in Mumbai, India and apart from being a regular volunteer of MLCS group; she has diverse interests in various activities that are beyond the scope of this small introduction. Having seen the admission process with interviews et al for 2 continuous years and being successful in getting admitted into 5 and a ½ schools out of 7 schools. She is now heading to the Duke University , Fuqua School of Business and she is enthused to help others go through the maze of applying and getting accepted by schools abroad.

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