Applying to MBA programs involves asking one, two, and sometimes even three people (perhaps if you’re applying to joint programs) who are typically very busy to spend time writing you a customized letter of recommendation. Although the Common Letter of Recommendation does save recommenders some time, they still need to tweak each letter for word count or customize it for each school in other ways.
Most applicants we work with at Stratus tend to feel bad asking busy people to spend a lot of time on these letters—to the point where some even limit the number of schools to which they apply. The good news is that people who want to see you succeed (which all your recommenders should) usually are happy to spend the time and understand it’s a part of their job. That said, it’s always a good idea to thank your MBA recommenders properly to ensure you show your appreciation for their time and effort in helping you advance your career.
Here are some tips for how to thank your MBA recommenders:
Make a thoughtful gesture.
To show your appreciation, you could take your recommender out for a nice lunch or dinner or send a gift card to their favorite restaurant. For a person interested in fitness, you could give a gift card to Lululemon, for example. Many people would enjoy a bottle of their adult beverage of choice or some good coffee. If you know your recommender’s tastes and interests, you can customize the gift rather than just sending a generic gift card. In addition, sending a handwritten card expressing your thanks and appreciation is an old-fashioned but much appreciated gesture that is rare these days. In your note, it’s also nice to mention how much you have learned from working with the recommender or describe some other way they have been instrumental in your career.
Keep them updated.
The people you choose to write MBA application recommendations on your behalf are people who should care about your career and where it takes you in your life. Your recommenders would appreciate staying in touch and receiving updates from you, at least through LinkedIn but also through more personal notes and emails. Staying in touch and learning what you’re doing would allow them to see the impact they helped make on your life and career by writing your recommendations.
Keep working hard.
Another way to thank your recommenders is to keep working as hard in your day-to-day job as you were before applying to business school—even after you’ve been admitted. If you take your foot off the gas, your recommender (one of whom is likely your supervisor) might question the strong work ethic and integrity they wrote about in their letter. Maintain the same level of effort throughout your entire time at the organization even if it’s not always easy.
The MBA application process can seem very impersonal and process driven. However, the people who write your recommendations care about you and your outcomes, so make sure you thank them appropriately for taking the time to help you. Someday, as an MBA alum, you’ll be asked to write recommendations for MBA applicants, and you’ll appreciate when they make an effort to send a personalized and meaningful thank you!