Whom should I ask? Similar to many other top programs, Tuck requires that all applicants submit two letters of recommendation. Although Tuck does not require that one recommender be your current direct supervisor, asking your boss for a recommendation is standard practice for business school applicants. So, if you are able, we recommend reaching out to your current supervisor. As do most schools, Tuck discourages academic recommendations from undergraduate professors.
Does title or status matter? As many top business programs claim, Tuck is more concerned with the content and quality of your recommendations than the reputation or title of your recommenders. Choose individuals who know you well, can speak to your qualifications as an MBA candidate, and can add “valuable insights to your application.” We see candidates try to call in favors to try to get their company’s CEO to write a letter on their behalf. In general, the admissions committee will be far more impressed by a genuine and passionate letter from a middle manager with whom you work every day than a polite letter from a well-known CEO that lacks depth and detailed anecdotes about you. The latter will likely be discounted or completely ignored.
What will they be asked? The actual “letter” of recommendation is submitted through an online form. Once you begin your online application, you will provide the names and e-mail addresses of your recommenders, and they will receive a link to complete the online form. Your recommender will be asked to answer the following questions, which are the same as those used in the Common Letter of Recommendation:
- Please provide a brief description of your interaction with the applicant and, if applicable, the applicant’s role in your organization. (50 words)
- How does the performance of the applicant compare to that of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? (E.g. what are the applicant’s principal strengths?) (500 words)
- Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (500 words)
- Optional: Is there anything else we should know?
What should they say? Tuck admissions officers are looking for specific examples of your performance, teamwork, and leadership qualities to shine through in your letters of recommendation. Your recommenders should be up to speed on the overall theme of your application, and should be aware of your reasons for getting an MBA and applying to Tuck to ensure consistency throughout your application. The use of specific examples combined with genuine enthusiasm about your candidacy are keys to a successful letter.
Should I draft it myself? Many applicants to business school are asked by their superiors to draft the recommendation themselves and the recommender will approve it. We strongly recommend that you do not write the recommendation yourself for several reasons. Your writing style and choice of phrasing are unique, and admissions officers will notice if the recommendations are similar to each other and to your essays. If they notice too many similarities, your application could be denied outright. The admissions officer is looking for a third-party perspective on your candidacy, so writing a recommendation yourself is an unethical breach of trust with the school you are looking to join.
When it comes to Tuck, the answer to this question is an emphatic no. The school specifically states the following:
Your reference must be the sole author of your LOR. Drafting, writing, translating, or submitting your own reference, even if asked to do so by your reference, violates Tuck’s admissions policies and Tuck’s Academic Honor Principle. You are responsible for informing your references of this policy.
Preparing your recommenders. You should sit down and have candid conversations with your recommenders about the reasons you want to go to business school and why you’ve selected your target schools, your professional goals, and your experience together. Ask them if they would have the time to write a strong recommendation on your behalf. (This also gives them a nice “out” by telling you that they are too busy rather than saying they don’t feel comfortable giving you a positive recommendation.) Bring a copy of your resume and a bulleted list of projects that you’ve worked on together and accomplishments they have seen you achieve. Let them know that admissions committees prefer to see specific, detailed examples in recommendations. Then, let them know that you’ll serve as a “project manager” to follow up and ensure that they are able to submit your recommendation ahead of the deadline.