Letters of recommendation

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Letters of recommendation

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  • 1. Letters of Recommendation:The Rule of 10%http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/

2. Letters of Recommendation: The Rule of 10%By the Amerasia Consulting Group, Boutique MBA Admissions ConsultingMBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 3. When it comes to recommendations, the first thingthat any applicant needs to understand is how theywork and, therefore, how they should handle them aspart of the process.We sum up this analysis with something we call TheRule of 10%: they count for about 10% of a decision,they should be about 10% of your focus duringapplication season, and you should contribute about10% of the work that goes into their outcome. MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 4. Obviously, these are all gross estimates andgeneralizations, but it shakes out to about right andits easier to use 10% than a percentage that is a LOTless than you think it is.The bottom line is that most applicants assume amuch higher level of importance, they spend far moretime thinking and worrying about them, and they getfar too involved in their production (the biggest issueof all).MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 5. Lets work through all three:1.Letters of Rec Make up About 10% of the Decision.2.You Should Spend About 10% of Your Time onLetters of Rec.3.You Should Do About 10% of the Work on YourLetters. MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 6. 1. Letters of Rec Make up About 10% of the Decision.There are basically two ways to analyze how recommendations work within an admissions decision one is to think of it from a process standpoint and the other is to consider the weight they carry, more or less, and using the former can help us understand why the answer to the latter is more or less about 10%. MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 7. Within the process, the typical way in which a letterof recommendation is utilized by an admissionsofficer is as a verification tool.A reader will sit down to review a file (in much lesstime than you think, by the way) and typically workthrough the one sheet (name, biographical data,test scores, undergrad, major, GPA, age, etc.) so theycan get the basics.This frames the expectation going in and is whysome of these data points become obsessed over. Alow GMAT tells the reader long shot (and thats thebest case scenario).MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 8. An extreme age makes them extra sensitive to theappropriateness of the degree.There are a lot of ways the perception can be framedat this very initial stage, and while nobodys mind ismade up yet, there is definitely an influence on theway the file is read.MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 9. Next, its the application itself (transcripts are usuallyskipped or skimmed unless there is something toinvestigate, like a really low GPA next to a monsterGMAT score), which is very quick.The resume brings to life work experience in asnapshot, which is why you must always constructyour resume as a sales tool.Now, the reader has a much better sense of howqualified this applicant is, how well this person hasdone professionally, and so forth the reader canprobably prognosticate admissions chances withabout 60% accuracy at this point. MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 10. The essays are where the variance kicks in. Somewho look good on paper will blow it, by either failingto articulate proper reasons for the degree, or writingbland content that they think is what someone wantsto read, or for failing to really connect to the school inquestion.Others will rise far above the initial impression withgreat essays (that do accomplish the things above). MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 11. Once the essays are completed, the reader is about90% of the way there and more or less has decided.The only thing left is to check the recommendationletters to make sure that other people people whoknow the applicant better concur with theassessment. Again, we want to stress that this isabout validating an already-formed opinion.If you were an experienced professional who pridedyourself on bringing in a great class of studentsevery year and you know what works and whatdoesnt, are you going to cede the power of makingthe decision to someone writing a letter? MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 12. Of course not, so unless it is an extreme case (likeStanford, where far more stated importance is put onletters of recommendation), you can assume thatyour letters will account for about 10% of the ultimatedecision.Good letters will help affirm a readers decision toadmit (note: this just means you will get aninterview invite at this point, but within admissionsoffices they flag people as admits until they aredemoted down to wait list or deny), is basically whatit comes down to.MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 13. 2. You Should Spend About 10% of Your Time on Letters of Rec.The second Rule of 10% is how much time you should be spending on the letter of recommendation and 10% might be generous. This is a letter written by someone else, after all. How much time should it really take you? Not much! Note though that we did not say 0% of your time. You do need to take some steps to set your recommender up for success rather than failure.MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 14. First, you should indeed sit down with the personwriting your letter and talk to that individual.Thank them for taking the time, solicit their adviceon schools and even whether now is the right time(even if you are just doing it to make them feelvalued), buy them a cup of coffee whatever youdo, make it personal and dont just email them aone-liner asking them to write you a letter ofrecommendation. MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 15. You should also state clearly what you are askingthem to do, which is recommend you. This is nota performance evaluation.Ask the person in question whether he or she iscomfortable recommending you wholeheartedly tobusiness school. Avoid anyone who caveats theanswer or who seems intent on performing arigorous exercise just to prove how smart theyare.You want someone who is excited to help yourchances by extolling your virtues.MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 16. Finally, you should provide your recommenderwith some ammunition. This is admittedly a trickyarea, because you neither want to influence theletter too much, nor do you want to overwhelm therecommender with reams of documents that theyhave to sort through.Our advice is to give them three items: yourresume, a query letter that formally asks themfor this favor and details some of your keyaccomplishments and interests (2-3 pages, max),and a sample (if they would like to see one) of agood letter. From there, your work is done. Getout of the way and dont mess with the process.MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 17. 3. You Should Do About 10% of the Work on Your Letters.This leads us to our third 10% Rule, which is how big your role should be in the production of the letter. That 10% is already accounted for above in the prep work to set that person up to succeed.Any other involvement is not only unethical (someschools will ding you for leaving your fingerprintson the letter), but also counterproductive.Remember what these are used for: to verify thefindings of an experienced admissionsprofessional.MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 18. They dont want to see you embedding morestatements about how awesome you are inanother part of the application (commonly referredto as synching the letters). All they want is anauthentic, positive letter that says, yes, I vouchthat this person is great if you liked theapplication, you will like the actual applicant.Now, just to make it clear that were not in someutopian society where all recommendation letterwriters are created equal, lets discuss quality.Is there a disparity between a good letter and agreat one? Yes, absolutely. MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 19. A great letter is well written, provides specificexamples of discussed traits, offers context for itsremarks, and best of all establishes a baselinefrom which to assess this one person (in all myyears on Wall Street, during which I haveencountered hundreds of MBA candidates, Timmyis the best).However (and this is a key point!), the samedisparity does not exist between the value of agreat letter versus a good one. MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 20. Great letters dont pull victory from the jaws ofdefeat and magically make your ding an admit, sothe marginal utility of a great letter issomewhere between zero and not much.Sure, there are cases of amazing letters playing abig role, but that is unpredictable and rare,meaning you dont build your application strategyaround it. More to the point, the downside of amanipulated letter is that you can get denied either on ethical grounds or because the readersimply has no way to validate previous findings(which is their entire objective in reviewing them). MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 21. Remember: if the role you play in your own lettersof recommendation is greater than 10%, you willnot only fail to gain an advantage, you create agreat possibility that you will shoot yourself in thefoot.Engaging in this process beyond 10% of the workis basically minimal upside, big downside. MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com 22. If you can take this tip to heart, you will create less stress for everyone involvedand allow the letters of recommendation to serve the very basic function they areintended for. For an ov