Nov 14, 2019

Tuck Admissions Insights: Letters of Reference

Letters of Reference (LORs) provide the Admissions Committee with additional insight into your accomplishments, potential, personal, and professional strengths and growth areas. Tuck has adopted the questions posed by the Common Letter of Recommendation. In case you think you have little control over this area of the application, let us assure you otherwise!

Choosing Your Reference

  • Choose someone who has worked with you closely and is capable of highlighting how you are smart, accomplished, aware, and nice. The most useful LORs are from people who can speak with certainty about the outcomes you achieved and the behaviors you demonstrated to achieve them. We prefer at least one of your LORs to come from a direct supervisor.
  • If you don’t want your supervisor to know you’re applying to business school and therefore aren’t asking them for an LOR, a previous direct supervisor, indirect supervisor, client, senior colleague, or contact from an extracurricular organization can be good options. Use your good judgment to determine who has the knowledge, desire, and time to advocate for you.
  • If you’re not providing an LOR from your supervisor, we ask that you include an explanation in an optional essay to clarify your choice.
  • A previous direct supervisor, client, senior colleague, or contact from an extracurricular organization are great choices for your second LOR. If you have worked for multiple organizations, your second LOR may be from your current or your previous employer; again, use your good judgment to select a strong advocate.
  • Your reference doesn’t need to be the CEO or head of the company, especially if they have had little direct contact or interaction with you. We prefer to hear from someone who has worked with you directly than someone with an impressive title.
  • We do not recommend asking family or friends to write your LORs. If you work for a family business and your supervisor is a parent (or an aunt, or an uncle, etc.), we suggest asking a client, customer, or non-family member in the organization to write an LOR for you instead.
  • Unless you worked in a full-time professional capacity for a professor, we also do not recommend asking a professor to write an LOR. We will know how you performed in the class from your grades and professors aren’t usually in a position to provide insight into your accomplishments and your underlying behaviors.

Preparing Your Reference

  • Ask your potential reference these three questions: 1) Do you have the knowledge of my outcomes and behaviors to write a compelling LOR? 2) Do you have the desire to write a positive LOR? and 3) Do you have the time to write a detailed LOR? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” find someone else.
  • Find some time to talk with your references about your goals and rationale for getting an MBA. Also remind them of your recent performance reviews and talk about significant accomplishments. This will help them write more compelling LORs because they will have specific examples to support their comments.
  • Encourage detailed examples. Brief LORs that simply state strong feelings without supporting examples are not very helpful—regardless of whether those feelings are positive or negative.
  • We want an honest assessment of your skills. Occasionally, we’ll hear that a reference asks the applicant to write the LOR for them and then will sign their name to it. If this happens to you, you need to find someone else. Drafting, authoring, revising, or submitting your own LOR is wrong, and a direct violation of Tuck’s honor code.
  • You shouldn’t even be translating the letter into English for your reference. If your reference is not able to complete the LOR in English, your reference should write it in their native language and have it translated by an outside translation service.
  • Be sure to give your reference plenty of time to complete the LOR by the application deadline. If Tuck receives your LORs after the deadline, your application will be moved to the next round. It is your responsibility to make sure that your references are aware of the deadlines.

Lastly, be sure to thank your reference—profusely! Writing these letters takes a lot of time and effort, and your references deserve thanks for investing theirs in your path to wise, decisive leadership.