scary story about letters of recommendation

This isn’t the sort of post that will really help you get into an MBA program, but I thought this was an interesting story, and wanted to share.

Once upon a time, one of my all-time favorite GMAT students applied to about five schools during the first round.  She had a solid profile, with great work experience and interesting essays.  Her GMAT score was unspectacular, but should have been enough to get an interview or two.  Plus, she’s female, and that never hurts.

And guess what? She didn’t even get an interview from any of her first five target MBA programs.  Ouch.  (Both of us were wondering whether she’d hired the wrong GMAT tutor and admissions consultant.)

She tried again:  four schools this time, with three applications heading out in time for the second round deadline.  The fourth application, if I remember correctly, arrived for the third round.  This time, she scored interviews from three of the four schools, and was admitted to two.  One of them even offered a partial scholarship.  And I wouldn’t say that this second fleet of schools was much less prestigious than the first.

What happened?  We’ll never know for sure, but the only thing that changed was her recommenders.  Most notably, her boss (at the time) wrote recommendations for the first five schools, but not for the last four.  As luck would have it, my student was up for a performance review at work, sometime between her first five rejections and her subsequent acceptance to a top-tier MBA program.

And guess what?  It turned out that her boss absolutely hated her.  Again, we’ll never know for sure, but we strongly suspect that the boss wrote scathing (or at least indifferent) recommendations to the first five schools, effectively sabotaging her candidacy.

There’s no moral to this story, really.  You already knew that you should only ask trusted colleagues to write your recommendations, right?

Um, right?

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