How To Choose Your Recommenders
The application process for the W. P. Carey MRED program has several components. Studying for and taking the GRE or GMAT, sending transcripts, writing responses to essay questions, and selecting the best schools for your goals (and for your money) all require time and effort. One piece of the puzzle that can really make your application stand out is your letters of recommendation, so it is worth putting thought into who should write them on your behalf.
Recommendation letters help the admissions team develop a big picture view of your accomplishments, strengths and weaknesses, and potential fit within the W. P. Carey community. You are required to provide three recommendations, and while they should be complementary, they should not be repetitive. So selecting the right people for the job is a crucial step.
While it may look impressive to see your CEO’s name on a recommendation letter, unless you worked directly with the CEO, the gaps in his or her recommendation will almost certainly show. You are far more likely to get an impressive recommendation from a direct supervisor, either from your current job or your previous one. The reason? Your supervisors know your work a lot better, so they’re more familiar with your strengths, your performance and specific examples that can illustrate why you’re a good candidate for the program. Effective writers can only help you that much more, so be sure to call upon someone with excellent writing and presentation skills.
If you’re an entrepreneur or you feel a letter from your current or previous supervisor would not accurately reflect your accomplishments and contributions, ask for a recommendation from another source. A long-term client, vendor, investor, or even someone in a leadership position within a community organization or non-profit can be a valuable resource. But the same rule still applies: Make sure it is someone who can speak to your work in detail. With a letter of recommendation, it’s more how you impressed someone that counts than who you impressed.
The Clock is Ticking
After you identify two outstanding recommenders, you need to give them time to write your letter. It can’t be a quick note they jot down over lunch later this week – it’s going to take time to put together your strongest case, and it’s going to take time to make the time to do it. Simply put, the longer they have, the better the results will be.
Since all of your application materials need to be submitted by the final application deadline, a good rule of thumb is to work backwards from that date. Give your recommenders no less than two weeks before that deadline to complete and mail their letters, or err on the side of caution and go with four weeks prior to the deadline.
The more prepared your recommender is, the easier their letter is to write, and the better it reflects on you. Set up a time to meet with each recommender and outline everything about the process: Why you’re applying for grad school and how you think it will help you move forward in your career, why you’ve chosen them to write your letter, and specific information about your work individually, within teams, and with your recommender. Nobody knows your abilities and accomplishments better than you, so give your recommenders as much information as they could possibly need to make that same case for you.
Get the Ball Rolling
Test scores are important to your application. Essays tell us more about where – and how — you see yourself. And letters of recommendation help validate you as a potential MRED candidate. So give yourself the best opportunity to stand out from the crowd: Start working on your letters of recommendation early, choose the right recommenders, and be available to sit down with each of them to discuss your plans, explain how they can help, and develop a timeline.