Today’s post comes from Nita Losoponkul, a Veritas Prep head consultant for UCLA. She received her undergraduate degree in Engineering from Caltech and went from engineering to operations to global marketing to education management/non-profit. Her non-traditional background allows her to advise students from many areas of study. She has successfully helped low GPA students get admitted into UCLA.
There are 27.5 million “small” businesses in the United States (<500 employees, 2009, US Small Business Administration), of which an estimated 5.5 million are “family owned” (2012, Family Enterprise USA). You may find yourself in this position and for many good reasons are thinking about pursuing your MBA. Congrats – the fact that you are reading this means that you are well on your way! One dilemma that MBA applicants from family businesses face is the recommendation – can my [insert family member here – Mom, Dad, Grandmother, Grandfather, Sister, Brother, Aunt, Uncle, etc.] write my recommendation? The answer? It depends.
One of the best recommendations I ever read was from a father of an applicant (this particular writer disclosed from the beginning that he was indeed the dad). And it wasn’t because it was a glowing recommendation, full of praise. It was because it was honest, sincere, full of details and relevant (relevant is key here) examples highlighting leadership, innovation and strong communication skills, AND constructive criticism about the mistakes his son had made because of his lack of a business fundamentals (much to the dismay of the dad, the son had studied something far removed from the business world, along the lines of classical music or Greek history). Regardless of who is writing the recommendation, they should be able speak thoughtfully and in detail (it is much stronger to provide an example of your leadership versus just saying that you are a natural leader) about key qualities Admissions Committees are looking for.
There have been family members who have chosen not to disclose that they are in fact related to the applicant. Most schools do not have a policy requiring disclosure and it may be possible to keep this fact hidden, especially if they have a different surname. Ultimately, the most important factors in your decision about whether to request a recommendation from your family member are a) whether or not they are truly the best to comment on your potential and performance and b) whether they can provide the details and relevant examples of your work and character (both positive and constructive). If you know that the letter will be your life events from birth to today, with stories about losing your first tooth or your first date, consider asking someone else (and good luck explaining this decision, though the right one, to your family – you’ll need it).
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