The recommendation letter is one of the more underappreciated sources of anxiety in the application process. It’s not so much the inability to get recommenders to speak highly of a candidate – most people seeking an elite MBA have multiple contacts willing to attest to their brilliance. Rather, the challenge is approaching that individual and asking for them to do you the favor of partnering with you through the application process.
For introverts especially reaching out and asking for a recommendation letter is nerve-wracking. It also very actively involves someone who will now be witness to every success or failure. Recommenders will learn about every acceptance or rejection decision, something most applicants would prefer to keep quiet. Moreover with most business schools having slightly different recommendation letter formats, the recommender has to go through the trouble of writing something tailored to each program and to the candidates’ story – all without actively coordinating with the candidate.
As Darden’s Executive Director of Admissions, Dawna Clarke, discussed in a blog post outlining changes to this year’s MBA application process, recommendation letters are also tough because they require a candidate to reveal that they’re considering dropping out of the workforce to pursue an MBA. This can imperil chances of career advancement and lower bonuses.
All in all Darden’s decision – which leaves open the option to submit a second recommendation – is a good one.