Recommenders And Recommendations

Download "5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in your MBA Application Essay"

A recommendation from someone with power is not half as good as a recommendation from someone who knows you well.

Some applicants have this idea that if they can just get their company CEO, whom they have never met, to write their business school recommendation, then the admissions committee will cower in awe and immediately accept them.  It’s not a new idea; applicants have asked me every year for the last ten years if they should choose high-level people as recommenders.  The short answer is no.

Here’s the longer answer.  There are two simple rules for choosing recommenders:  You should choose people who know your work very well, and you should choose people who will write the recommendations themselves (with your guidance).

What makes a recommendation bad?

The typical bad recommendation, the kind written by someone who does not know you well (like a CEO), is full of assertions about what a good person you are but gives no evidence to back up those assertions.  It’s a generic write-up full of platitudes that does not help you.

What makes a recommendation good?

A great recommendation, on the other hand, is written by someone who knows your work very well, someone who can go beyond simple assertions to give examples of impressive contributions that provide evidence of your leadership skills and teamwork ability and business acumen.  People who know you well can often write great stories of your work that you had completely forgotten or taken for granted.  They write about what was important to them, and therefore they give great third-person points of view about your candidacy to the admissions committee, which is exactly what the committee wants.  So again—choose people who know your work well.

Who should recommend you?

Typically, this means that your recommender should be a supervisor, a colleague, or a client.  Do not choose someone who simply has a big title or happens to be an alumnus of the school, thinking that this will carry weight with the admissions committee, because that person will write something generic that will not help you.  Only if this big titleholder or alumnus knows your work very well should you choose them.

Also, try to select a range of recommenders—ones who have seen you in different situations—so that they all don’t end up saying the same things about you or using the same stories.  For example, choosing your supervisor and that person’s supervisor is rarely a good strategy, because they’ve seen you work on the same projects from the same point of view.  The admissions committee wants views of you from different angles; they do not want the same point of view given two or three times.

Should you write your own recommendations?

Do not write your own recommendation if you can avoid it.  Seriously.  Put aside the likelihood that the admissions committee will recognize your writing style and discount the recommendation accordingly: the problem is that if you write your own recommendation, you’ll just write things you already know about yourself, or repeat things from your essays—and as I said above, it’s a recommendation that brings out new things about you that works well.

Now, you do want to guide your recommenders; you want to tell them you’re applying to business school, tell them your goals, remind them of successful projects you’ve worked on together, and suggest to them that they write about your business-related skills rather than your technical-related skills.  You can even write an outline or a series of bullet points for them to serve as helpful reminders and save them some time.  In these ways, you can influence the recommendation process.  But really, they should write the recommendation in their own hand, in their own style, with their own thoughts.  Someone who takes the time to write your recommendation is someone who believes in you and your candidacy; you can draw your own conclusions about someone who does not want to take the time.

MBA 5 Fatal Flaws

R. Todd King By an MIT MBA, who has worked with MBA applicants since 2001. Todd can help you make the most of your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses.

Related Resources:

Letters of Recommendation that Rock! – an ebook
Best MBA Program and How to Choose the Right One
Ten Do’s and Don’ts For Your Resume

How To Study For The GRE (Part I)

Tip 1: Maximize your study time!

Sitting down to prep—seems pretty obvious what you are going to do. Open up a GRE prep book and start reading. But what exactly does that mean? Do you go through a book sequentially, a page at a time, so that by the end of the book GRE mastery is yours? Or do you read just those areas in which you don’t feel confident? Or do you do a mixture of both, or something else entirely?

While there is no clear answer to these questions, you may want to keep some points in mind. First off, becoming better at the GRE is about learning techniques and then applying those techniques to questions that are similar to the ones you’ll encounter on the test. Secondly, GRE material is often more like a reference book than a textbook. While you should read the beginning to get a sense of the entire text, you’ll want to skip around and revisit—often many times—areas to which you are new. It is this combination of targeted practice and repetition that will yield the most gains.

Maximize your time

Each GRE session will differ. After all, sometimes you won’t have two hours to devote to studying. Other times, you’ll have an entire afternoon—just you and the GRE. However, even if you have just one hour of interrupted prep time, you should plan to do the following:

Apply what you’ve learned

Some fall prey to the temptation to read technique after technique, without tackling any questions that will actually allow them to apply the technique. This temptation is understandable since reading about a technique gives you false confidence; the writers often apply the technique to the problem so that everything seems deceptively straightforward. You’ll likely think, “I got this!” or “That makes sense!” after reading about a new technique. However, it is only when you try a problem “in the wild” and attempt to apply these techniques that you’ll have a better sense of how well you truly understand them.

At Magoosh, we want to ensure our students are aware of this approach (we have little pop-up windows and the like). Otherwise, many will watch hours of lesson videos (where you learn the techniques and strategies), and only do one or two practice questions.

When prepping from a book, you won’t have any pop-up windows. So always make sure to do questions that relate to whatever strategy you are learning that day, or have been learning in the last few days. For example, if you’ve been reading about the properties of a circle, make sure to do practice problems relating to circles. And don’t try to learn every aspect of a circle without first practicing some of the basics. If you’re reading a book that is six pages of concepts, don’t try to read the entire thing and then answer the questions pertaining to those six pages. Instead, read a few pages at a time and attempt those questions relating to the concepts about which you just read.

Learn from your mistakes… and your successes

Given that you’ll be completing many problems, it is easy to fall into the mindset that more is better. Indeed, many students correlate the number of questions they complete with their score on test day. Many will trawl the web desperately looking for questions, as though they were vampires looking for blood.

However, whether you answer a question incorrectly—or even correctly—you shouldn’t deem the question to be of no further use. Understanding the reason why you answered the question incorrectly is a skill that will help you both to avoid similar mistakes and to think the way the test writers do. This applies even to questions that are correctly answered. Often, you’ll be wavering between two answers and will end up picking one that turns out to be correct. Understanding why you weren’t 100% sure about the question is very helpful to improving. You’ll get a deeper sense of why you were drawn to one of the incorrect answers as well as your thought process for why you ended up going with the correct answer.

The insights you gain from this process can be applied to future questions, and future study sessions. For instance, if you notice after answering a series of reading comprehension questions that you tend to struggle with science passages, then you would know to include more science passages in your upcoming study sessions.


Effectively preparing for the GRE isn’t just a question of sitting down to study. How you prepare will go a long way to determining your score on test day. Make sure to learn just a few new concepts or strategies at a time. Doing related practice questions will help you reinforce these concepts before you move on to something new. Remember also to revisit these concepts a few days after initially learning about them. Finally, don’t forget that the best teacher can oftentimes be your mistakes. Take the time to review your problems and to understand why you missed the question. An awareness of what went wrong will help you avoid similar mistakes in the future.

GRE Prep Tips save date

Magoosh This post was written by Chris Lele, resident test prep expert at Magoosh and a leader in GRE prep. For more advice on taking the GRE, check out Magoosh’s GRE blog.

Related Resources:

Navigate the MBA Maze
• To GRE Or Not To GRE? That Is The Question
• Making Friends with the GRE: How To Overcome Test Anxiety and Perform at Your Best 

Rosy Outlook For MBA Grads

What to MBA rankings mean to you?The GMAC 2015 Corporate Recruiters Survey has found a positive hiring climate for new MBAs, with demand increasing worldwide.

Some highlights from the report:

•  Worldwide, 84 percent of recruiters plan to hire MBA graduates in 2015, up from 74 percent in 2014.

•  75 percent of recruiters in Asia-Pacific, 56 percent of European recruiters, 75 percent of Latin American companies, and 92 percent of US recruiters plan to hire MBAs this year, all increases from 2014.

•  Starting salaries for MBA hires are also up at more than half of companies internationally.

•  Along with MBA hiring, hiring of new graduates from Master in Management, Master of Accounting, and Master of Finance programs is up over last year.

•  This year’s report also included analysis relating to massive open online courses—MOOCs— that indicates some skepticism on the part of corporate recruiters: only 15 percent of companies globally and 8 percent in the United States consider MOOCs an alternative to graduate management education.

See more details and download the full report here!

Download your copy of Navigating the MBA MazeAccepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy
Related Resources:

Are MBA Rankings Really Important?
• The Hottest Skills that will Land You the Hottest Jobs
The Benefits of an MBA According to John Byrn

The Dangers Of High Scores And MBA Application Strategy

Listen to the show!MBA application season has begun! Get the ball rolling with Linda Abraham’s kickoff episode with invaluable advice for 2016 applicants.

Have high stats? Linda has a warning for you. Think you can fill out the boxes on your app on the day you submit? Think again.

If you have any other questions about getting your applications started, just leave us a note in the comments section of this post.

00:01:54 – The risks of a high GMAT score.

00:07:16 – A strategic approach to the boxes and the essays on an MBA application

00:12:00 – What you can do before the essay questions come out.

00:12:25 – How to make the most of your resume and job history.

Click here to listen to the show!*Theme music is courtesy of

Related links:

Get Accepted to Columbia Businesss School webinar
Resume 101
MBA Essay 101

Related shows:

The Admissions Team At The Very Center Of Business
Exploring the Part-Time MBA Options at NYU Stern
Bruce DelMonico on The Yale School of Management
The Tuck School of Business and the Global Insight Requirement

Check Out Admissions Straight Talk in iTunes! Check Out Admissions Straight Talk in Stitcher!
MBA 5 Fatal Flaws

How Your Academic Statistics Should Influence Your School Choices

Download our guide on how to Navigate the Med School MazeThe most reliable source of information about allopathic medical schools is provided on the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) website, offered by the AAMC.  It is worth purchasing access to this database because the statistics it contains are very valuable in helping you to decide where to apply.

Before you begin exploring the school data, it’s important for you to know the schools only provide an average of the scores that they accept—they do not provide the full range of scores.  If you had access to see the full range of scores for accepted applicants, rather than the averages, you would be pleasantly surprised. With a decade of experience in medical school admissions, I have seen how quickly and easily students are discouraged by these numbers. I want to emphasize the importance of the other sections of the application.  If you have a lower GPA, but at higher MCAT score and years of exceptional service and activities, you may be just the student a school is looking for but you’ll never know if you don’t apply to the right schools.

The purpose of this blog is not to discourage you, but to help you more accurately assess where you should apply because you will have a higher chance of getting in.

I recommend using the following approach in preparing to research which schools you will have the best chances of acceptance at:

1.  Without judgment or berating yourself, calculate your cumulative and science GPA’s.

2.  Look at the trends in your GPA, term by term.  If you graduated with a significant decreasing trend, do not apply this cycle.  If you have a strong decreasing trend and your GPA is below a 3.0, consider completing postbac coursework or a postbac program.  In this case, read a copy of my book, The Definitive Guide to Premedical Postbaccalaureate Programs, for guidance in this direction.

3.  If you have maintained a competitive GPA or have a strong increasing trend, review your MCAT scores.  If you have earned a 7 or higher in each section of the exam, with a total score above a 25, you can consider applying.  If you have scores below a 7 on any section, your application may go through an additional hurdle, known as the “academic committee” on some campuses, where a few applications with low GPA’s or lower MCAT scores make it out.  In these committees, they duke it out based on whether the student has any other significant redeeming qualities in other areas that could possibly justify keeping your application under consideration.

4.  If you have made it this far, congratulate yourself!  If you have a lower GPA, you should have a higher MCAT score to compensate and vice versa.  If your numbers are too low in any of these areas, consider retaking the MCAT or completing additional coursework.

5.  Once you have objectively collected and reviewed your numbers in detail, you are ready to begin researching medical schools.

In my next blog, we will review how to select medical schools by directly comparing your data to theirs. In preparation for this next step, you will need to purchase access to the MSAR website.  We have reviewed the process designed to prepare you for the next stage of the process of school selection. Again, it is important that you not be discouraged by the numbers.  We are reviewing them objectively. The more honest and accurately you can review your numbers in relation to theirs, the more realistic and successful your decisions will be.  Our focus in this process is on outcomes.  By using a strategic approach, we can bring about a positive outcome for your application.  I’d rather be guilty of not trying hard enough than not trying at all.

Learn how you can get accepted to med school even with a low MCAT or GPA!

Alicia McNease Nimonkar is an advisor and editor specializing in healthcare admissions. Prior to joining Accepted, Alicia worked for five years as Student Advisor at UC Davis’ postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and related programs.

Related Resources:

• 5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Medical School Profile
• Improve Your MCAT Score for Medical School Acceptance 
• Advice From A Med School Admissions Director

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