Theoretically, no one should write their own MBA recommendations. However, it’s unfortunately all too common for applicants to be asked to do so. Although it might seem like the easiest path to acquiesce, here are three good reasons not to do so:

  • You risk having your application pulled, or your offer rescinded.

If a school realizes that you have written your own recommendations, there is a real risk that you will jeopardize your application. You might be wondering how a school might figure this out – there are actually multiple ways, and it happens more often than you would think. Business schools often use anti-plagiarism software, which they use to screen essays and collateral material, including recommendations. If phrases are too similar across the essays, the resume, and the recommendations, for instance, the application will be flagged. Sometimes admissions officers just notice the similarities and become suspicious. In either situation, or if there are other indicators that the applicant wrote their own recommendations (like a sketchy email address for the recommender), the application won’t be reviewed.


  • The recommendation won’t be as strong as possible.

The right recommender will be excited to advocate for you, and will know you well enough to write in detail about your accomplishments and personal qualities, from their perspective. You want someone who will really rave about you, and who will add new information to support your candidacy, so consider it a giant red flag if they aren’t invested enough to even draft the recommendation. It’s fine (and advisable!) to offer support, but if your recommender is unwilling to write the recommendation, you are unlikely to secure a meaningful endorsement. This is a competitive process, so it’s a mistake to sacrifice the quality of such an important component.


  • It’s unethical.

At the risk of sounding naïve, it’s unethical to write your own MBA recommendations. In addition to worrying about whether or not someone will uncover the deception, if not during the application process, then perhaps during verification or even during or after business school, it’s just wrong. You are entering into a professional community that you will ideally belong to throughout your career, so wouldn’t you rather earn your spot honestly?

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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than $70 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
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