Monday, December 20, 2010

Requesting Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation should be the easy part of your application, right? Unlike studying for the GMAT or writing essays, these letters aren’t actually your responsibility to complete. However, they are an important part of your application to business school, and willrequire a significant amount of time and effort from someone else (whoever is writing on your behalf). I found that getting organized and connecting with my recommendation writers early on helped me support them through this process.

Once I knew I would be applying to business school in the fall of 2009, I pulled together my list of target schools and their recommendation letter requests. Most schools request two letters from people who know you in a professional setting, and I felt very lucky that my two previous bosses each agreed to write a letter for my application. Writing rec letters can be time consuming and each school varies slightly with deadlines, process, and questions, so I pulled together an overview spreadsheet to capture all the important information for my bosses. Within the sheet I grouped similar questions together, so that my bosses could see the universe of questions they would be asked to address but also so they could (if they wanted) write one paragraph on a particular topic (strengths, weaknesses, etc) that would still address the specifics of each school. Lastly, along with this spreadsheet I also sent them some of my draft essays and resume so that, in addition to conversations about my interests and motivation for attending business school, they could see how I was positioning my candidacy and experience.

As deadlines came and went, I made sure to stay in touch with my rec letter writers through occasional email reminders about upcoming deadlines and messages of thanks for their help throughout this lengthy process! And of course, if you are inclined, a gift of some kind at the conclusion of the process can also be a way to show your appreciation for their support – though of course don’t forget, these people can be great resources once you survive the application process too, in deciding which school to attend or where to focus a career search once you’re in school. I couldn’t be happier with where I ended up – attending the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley – and I couldn’t have done it without the support from some great rec letter writers!

Dana Ledyard, Forte Fellow
Class of 2012
UC Berkeley Haas School of Business

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