Jul 22, 2020

Tuck Admissions Insights: Letters of Reference

By Valeria Wiens

By Valeria Wiens, Associate Director, Tuck Admissions

Letters of Reference (LORs) provide the Admissions Committee with additional insight into your accomplishments, potential and 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! Here we’ll share advice on selecting and preparing your references.

Whom to Ask

Choose someone who has worked with you closely and can highlight how you demonstrate that you are smart, accomplished, aware, and encouraging. The most helpful LORs are professional in nature, and come from someone who directly supervised you, preferably one from your current direct supervisor. Ask someone who can provide detailed examples of your accomplishments and the behaviors you demonstrated to achieve them, as well as the feedback they shared with you along the way – you want someone who knows your work well. If you don’t want your current supervisor to know you’re applying to business school, you may consider asking a previous direct supervisor, indirect supervisor, client, senior colleague, board member, or contact from an extracurricular organization. These may also be good options for authoring your second LOR. Use your good judgment to determine who has the knowledge, desire, and time to advocate for you.

Whom Not to Ask

Start the selection process by asking 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.

Unless you have worked with them directly, your reference doesn’t need to be the CEO, head of the company, or someone with an impressive title. It is also rarely helpful to ask for a LOR authored by a friend, former professor (unless you worked for them in a full-time professional capacity), or a family member. If you work for a family business and your supervisor is a family member, we suggest asking a client, customer, or non-family member in the organization to write a LOR for you instead.

How to Prepare

Select your references early in the application process and find time to talk with them about your goals and rationale for getting an MBA. Then, review your recent performance reviews and significant accomplishments. The strongest LORs show passion and enthusiasm for your candidacy, while being precise and descriptive in the examples and stories they share.

Other Details

If you’re not providing at least one LOR from your current direct supervisor, we ask that you include an explanation in an optional essay to clarify your choice.

Drafting, authoring, revising, translating, or submitting your own LOR–or helping your reference with any of these steps–is a direct violation of Tuck’s honor code, even if your reference requests it. If your reference is not able to complete the LOR in English, they should write it in their native language and have it translated by an outside translation service.

Finally, give your references plenty of time to complete the LORs by the application deadline. We understand that the timing of submission is not entirely in your control, however, it is your responsibility to make sure that your references are aware of the deadlines.

If Tuck receives your LORs after the deadline, your application will be moved to the next round.

And of course, 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.