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UCLA Anderson Application Insider: Letters of Recommendations

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As part of your application to the UCLA Anderson Full-Time MBA Program, we ask for two letters of recommendation (and only one if you are a reapplicant). This post is designed to you to answer the most common questions we get related to letters of recommendation so you can get the most benefit from this important part of your application process.

Why are letters of recommendation a part of the MBA application?
Your letters of recommendation or “recs” provide the admissions committee with insight into your management and leadership capabilities and continued potential based on you past performance in a professional setting. They will help us understand your ability to work well with others, both as a leader and as a team player. They will illustrate your ability to deal with challenging situations, think strategically and learn and adapt from previous successes or failures.

Who should write my letters of recommendation? 
Contrary to popular belief, they do not necessarily need to come from the highest ranked person you know at work or come from people you have met in different settings (academic or personal vs. professional).
Your letters of recommendation should ideally come from a direct supervisor and/or managerwho will advocate on your behalf and can speak to your work performance, capabilities, and potential for graduate studies and future career success. Your recommenders should be able to provide us with detailed and insightful information in response to our recommendation questions. They should be able to address how they know you, how you compare to others in your organization, and your potential to continue growing into a strong leader. Keep in mind that we are more concerned with how well your recommenders know you, and not their titles, so don’t worry about getting a letter of recommendation from the CEO of your company if they don’t really know you well. By the same token, we know that it is tempting sometimes to want to ask a former professor who may have given you great marks, but most often these kinds of recommendations fail to provide us with the kind of detailed insights we look for in recommendations.

What if I cannot request a letter of recommendation from my supervisor?
If you cannot request a letter of recommendation from your supervisor, you can always contact a former employer. If you do choose to reach out to a former employer, make sure that it is someone that you have remained in contact with and can speak to how they’ve seen you develop since you worked with them. You want to make sure that their feedback is not restricted to speaking to who you were when they knew you, two, three, or five years ago.

If you are an entrepreneur or are working in a family business, in addition to considering previous employers, you can consider clients, vendors, as well as supervisors from volunteer organizations. It is not advisable that your recommender be someone who you are related to since they could be seen as biased in your favor.

What does the admissions committees hope to learn from a letter of recommendation? 
The admissions committee wants to learn about your leadership potential, your teamwork skills, as well as your ability to overcome challenges. Letters of recommendation allow us to see you through the eyes of your direct supervisors/managers; individuals who have witnessed your career progression. They can speak to what you have accomplished in your career, how your career to date can position you for future success and help support your post-MBA goals. For this reason, it’s important to make sure that your recommenders are familiar with your MBA plans.

How can you help your recommender do a good job with my letter of recommendation?
When you are reaching out to potential recommender make sure they understand how important this is for you and your MBA plans. Give them a way out if they simply are too busy and don’t have the time to write you a “great letter of recommendation.” You should take the time to speak with your recommenders about why you are interested in pursuing an MBA and what you hope to gain. Share a copy of your resume and remind them of some of your professional accomplishments. By sharing your plans, you will help them write a more compelling letter of recommendation. Refrain from ghostwriting material for them as the final product will not be as compelling or genuine as what your recommenders will be able to on their own.

How and when should letters of recommendation be submitted? Letters of recommendation can only be submitted electronically are sent directly by your recommender to us. You will need to enter each recommender’s details in your application so that they can be sent a personal link to the recommendation form. Recommendations should be submitted by the round deadline in which you are applying. To ensure that your application is evaluated on time, please make sure to inform your recommenders of the application deadline and stay in touch with them to confirm submission of the letter. 

Bonus Tip!
Don’t forget to thank your recommenders for taking the time to write your letters and for supporting you in your development. Keep them posted of your future MBA admission and share your future accomplishments with them.

Good luck with your letters of recommendation and make sure to keep checking back with us to learn more about our process and our program!

Check back for more “Application Insider” blog posts that will cover information and tips on the many aspects of applying to the UCLA Anderson MBA program!

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