Letters of recommendation the rule of 10


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Letters of Rec Make up About 10% of the Decision, Spend About 10% of Your Time on Letters of Rec, Do About 10% of the Work on Your Letters - By the Amerasia Consulting Group, Boutique MBA Admissions Consulting

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Letters of recommendation the rule of 10

  1. 1. Letters of Recommendation: The Rule of 10%http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/
  2. 2. Letters of Recommendation: The Rule of 10% By the Amerasia Consulting Group,Boutique MBA Admissions Consulting MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/
  3. 3. When it comes to recommendations, the first thing that any applicant needsto understand is how they work and, therefore, how they should handle themas part of the process.We sum up this analysis with something we call “The Rule of 10%”: theycount for about 10% of a decision, they should be about 10% of your focusduring application season, and you should contribute about 10% of the workthat goes into their outcome.Obviously, these are all gross estimates and generalizations, but it shakesout to about right and its easier to use 10% than “a percentage that is a LOTless than you think it is.”The bottom line is that most applicants assume a much higher level ofimportance, they spend far more time thinking and worrying about them, andthey get far too involved in their production (the biggest issue of all). MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/
  4. 4. Let’s work through all three:1. Letters of Rec Make up About 10% of the Decision.There are basically two ways to analyze how recommendations work withinan admissions decision – one is to think of it from a process standpoint andthe other is to consider the “weight” they carry, more or less, and using theformer can help us understand why the answer to the latter is “more or lessabout 10%.”Within the process, the typical way in which a letter of recommendation isutilized by an admissions officer is as a verification tool. A reader will sitdown to review a file (in much less time than you think, by the way) andtypically work through the “one sheet” (name, biographical data, test scores,undergrad, major, GPA, age, etc.) so they can get the basics. MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/
  5. 5. This frames the expectation going in and is why some of these data pointsbecome obsessed over. A low GMAT tells the reader “long shot” (and that’sthe best case scenario). An extreme age makes them extra sensitive to theappropriateness of the degree. There are a lot of ways the perception canbe framed at this very initial stage, and while nobody’s mind is made up yet,there is definitely an influence on the way the file is read.Next, it’s the application itself (transcripts are usually skipped or skimmedunless there is something to investigate, like a really low GPA next to amonster GMAT score), which is very quick.The resume brings to life work experience in a snapshot, which is why youmust always construct your resume as a sales tool. Now, the reader has amuch better sense of how qualified this applicant is, how well this personhas done professionally, and so forth – the reader can probablyprognosticate admissions chances with about 60% accuracy at this point. MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/
  6. 6. The essays are where the variance kicks in. Some who look good on paperwill blow it, by either failing to articulate proper reasons for the degree, orwriting bland content that they think is what someone wants to read, or forfailing to really connect to the school in question. Others will rise far abovethe initial impression with “great” essays (that do accomplish the thingsabove).Once the essays are completed, the reader is about 90% of the way thereand more or less has decided. The only thing left is to check therecommendation letters to make sure that other people – people who knowthe applicant better – concur with the assessment. Again, we want to stressthat this is about validating an already-formed opinion.If you were an experienced professional who prided yourself on bringing in agreat class of students every year and you know what works and whatdoesn’t, are you going to cede the power of making the decision to someonewriting a letter? MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/
  7. 7. Of course not, so unless it is an extreme case (like Stanford, where far morestated importance is put on letters of recommendation), you can assumethat your letters will account for about 10% of the ultimate decision. Goodletters will help affirm a reader’s decision to “admit” (note: this just meansyou will get an interview invite at this point, but within admissions offices theyflag people as admits until they are demoted down to wait list or deny), isbasically what it comes down to. MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/
  8. 8. 2. You Should Spend About 10% of Your Time on Letters of Rec.The second Rule of 10% is how much time you should be spending on theletter of recommendation – and 10% might be generous. This is a letterwritten by someone else, after all. How much time should it really take you?Not much! Note though that we did not say 0% of your time. You do needto take some steps to set your recommender up for success rather thanfailure. First, you should indeed sit down with the person writing your letter and talk to that individual. Thank them for taking the time, solicit their advice on schools and even whether now is the right time (even if you are just doing it to make them feel valued), buy them a cup of coffee – whatever you do, make it personal and don’t just email them a one-liner asking them to write you a letter of recommendation. MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/
  9. 9. You should also state clearly what you are asking them to do, which isrecommend you. This is not a performance evaluation. Ask the person inquestion whether he or she is comfortable recommending you wholeheartedly tobusiness school. Avoid anyone who caveats the answer or who seems intent onperforming a rigorous exercise just to prove how smart they are. You wantsomeone who is excited to help your chances by extolling your virtues.Finally, you should provide your recommender with some ammunition. This isadmittedly a tricky area, because you neither want to influence the letter toomuch, nor do you want to overwhelm the recommender with reams of documentsthat they have to sort through. Our advice is to give them three items: yourresume, a “query letter” that formally asks them for this favor and details some ofyour key accomplishments and interests (2-3 pages, max), and a sample (if theywould like to see one) of a good letter. From there, your work is done. Get outof the way and don’t mess with the process. MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/
  10. 10. 3. You Should Do About 10% of the Work on Your Letters.This leads us to our third 10% Rule, which is how big your role should be inthe production of the letter.That 10% is already accounted for above – in the prep work to set thatperson up to succeed. Any other involvement is not only unethical (someschools will ding you for leaving your fingerprints on the letter), but alsocounterproductive.Remember what these are used for: to verify the findings of an experiencedadmissions professional. They don’t want to read more essays! They don’twant to see you embedding more statements about how awesome you arein another part of the application (commonly referred to as “synching theletters”). All they want is an authentic, positive letter that says, “yes, I vouchthat this person is great – if you liked the application, you will like the actualapplicant.” MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/
  11. 11. Now, just to make it clear that we’re not in some utopian society where allrecommendation letter writers are created equal, let’s discuss quality. Isthere a disparity between a good letter and a great one? Yes, absolutely.A great letter is well written, provides specific examples of discussed traits,offers context for its remarks, and – best of all – establishes a baseline fromwhich to assess this one person (“in all my years on Wall Street, duringwhich I have encountered hundreds of MBA candidates, Timmy is thebest…”).However (and this is a key point!), the same disparity does not exist betweenthe value of a great letter versus a good one. Great letters don’t pull victoryfrom the jaws of defeat and magically make your ding an admit, so themarginal utility of a “great” letter is somewhere between zero and “notmuch.” Sure, there are cases of amazing letters playing a big role, but thatis unpredictable and rare, meaning you don’t build your application strategyaround it. MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/
  12. 12. More to the point, the downside of a manipulated letter is that you can getdenied – either on ethical grounds or because the reader simply has no wayto validate previous findings (which is their entire objective in reviewingthem).Remember: if the role you play in your own letters of recommendation isgreater than 10%, you will not only fail to gain an advantage, you create agreat possibility that you will shoot yourself in the foot. Engaging in thisprocess beyond 10% of the work is basically minimal upside, big downside.If you can take this tip to heart, you will create less stress for everyoneinvolved and allow the letters of recommendation to serve the very basicfunction they are intended for. MBA Admissions Consultant | http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/
  13. 13. For an overview of Amerasia MBA Admissions Consulting services, pleasevisit http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/mba_admissions_consulting_services/ If you are interested in the MBA Admissions Consulting services offered byAmerasia, please email mba@amerasiaconsulting.com to inquire about setting up a free consultation. . http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/