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I know someone very well who is a board member of a business school at one of the world’s top ranked university. This university has a great business school for undergraduates but the MBA program is not at all held in high regard.

I have my eyes on a highly ranked MBA program at another university.

My question:

Will a recommendation from a board member of a business school improve my application or harm it when applying for an MBA program at another university?

I can see it harming my application because if I am such a good applicant for an MBA then why would the board member endorse my application for another university? Why wouldn’t he try and make me attend the MBA at his business school?

On the other hand I can see it improving my application. For someone in his position to endorse my application to attend another business school shows I must be a very good fit for where I want to go.

Do I ask this board member for a recommendation letter or find someone else? What are some of the pros and cons of asking this board member?

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  • I know someone very well who is a board member Does the board member know you very well?
    – Nobody
    Sep 24 '17 at 14:58
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I can see it harming my application because if I am such a good applicant for an MBA then why would the board member endorse my application for another university? Why wouldn’t he try and make me attend the MBA at his business school?

Because, like you said, the other program is much better. If he knows and wishes you well, he won't try to prevent you from benefiting from a better program. Also, he cannot force you to attend his business school and you may have very good non-academic reasons to prefer another place. Perhaps your partner lives there, perhaps the job opportunities are better or the school has better career services, perhaps you just want to change your environment.

Do I ask this board member for a recommendation letter or find someone else? What are some of the pros and cons of asking this board member?

First of all, it doesn't hurt to think of a back-up plan in advance, in case the board member declines to write a strong letter.

Generally speaking, a recommendation letter from a board member of a good university should not harm your application. However, whether it will improve it depends on the capacity in which he knows you. Was he your professor in some classes where you performed exceptionally well and can commend on your analytical abilities? Does he have first have experience of working with you in the industry and can talk about your leadership potential, etc? Does he know you from some outstanding community service that you have performed? Look at how business schools describe their ideal candidates (they usually have a section like this). You want your recommendation letters to speak directly to those qualities based on their first-hand experience and giving specific examples as evidence.

In other words, his status of as a board member can amplify an otherwise strong application letter. However, if it is going to be something superficial, then it's better to look for someone else. And, of course, you don't want to be related to that person.

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  • Thanks for the answer. He is my partner with whom I am working with on a non profit business venture.
    – Al jabra
    Sep 24 '17 at 21:34
  • Then he sounds like a very good source of a recommendation letter. Just make sure that you phrase your request in such a way that he doesn't feel that his decision will affect your future partnership.
    – 12345
    Sep 24 '17 at 21:40
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Will a recommendation from a board member of a business school improve my application or harm it when applying for an MBA program at another university?

From personal experience, it makes no difference. The admissions team has to treat all recommendation letters the same, whether its from the President, or from your neighbor. Otherwise, it would offer an unfair advantage to those who have more resources to procure such a recommendation letter from someone more affluent.

Do I ask this board member for a recommendation letter or find someone else? What are some of the pros and cons of asking this board member?

Certainly ask this board member for a recommendation letter. There are really no pros or cons. It's almost like when you asked high school teachers for recommendation letters for college - doesn't matter if it was your math teacher or your gym teacher.

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  • I disagree. If you want to study math in college, a recommendation letter from your math teacher carries a lot of weight. Gym teacher - little if any.
    – 12345
    Sep 24 '17 at 20:19

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