Our Admissions team at Fuqua is always looking for ways to improve the application experience and process for our applicants. This year, we are excited to introduce the Common Letter of Recommendation (CLOR) for applicants to all of our programs.

So what does this mean for you as an applicant, and how will it affect your application experience? And how can you use the recommendation letter to stand out in the admissions process? Well, I’m glad you asked!

What is the New Common Letter of Recommendation?

Collecting professional recommendations involves getting a commitment from others to create something on your behalf, and writing recommendation letters is not an insignificant time commitment for those you ask. And, if you are applying to more than one school, and most people are, you may be asking your recommenders to write three, four, or even five different letters of recommendation. That’s where the CLOR comes in!

The Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) created the CLOR to help applicants and schools streamline the recommendation process. The CLOR consists of a group of questions that are relevant to any graduate business program, so your recommenders can now simply complete one recommendation form that will be shared with each of the schools to which you are applying. There are more than 40 business schools now accepting the CLOR, so chances are most of your top picks will be on that list. You can now ask your recommenders to write one letter and they are done, saving them time and alleviating the burden on you to follow up on the status of three or four different letters.

With less to worry about with follow up on multiple letters, you can focus your time on preparing your recommenders for the crafting of their letter—and this is where you can really set yourself apart in the application process.

Making the Most of Your Recommendations

Let’s review a few basic steps for ensuring a positive recommendation:

  1. Choose recommenders who know you well and can speak to your strengths. Don’t worry about their titles. Instead, think of individuals who have had meaningful interactions with you.
  2. Be sure to ask if the person has time to write the recommendation—and provide the deadlines up front.
  3. This seems obvious, but be sure to ask if they would be willing to write a positive recommendation on your behalf!

Once you have confirmed who your recommenders will be, you can think about how your recommendations can make you stand out in the application process. You may think that you don’t have control over this aspect of your application, but you do! You can help your recommenders by reminding them of your contributions and achievements. Think about how your recommendations can support the story you are telling through your application, and share that storyline with your recommenders. Below are a few tips to think about as you prepare your application:

  1. Invite your recommenders to get coffee, lunch, or a drink. At that meeting, share with him or her the reasons you are applying to business school, and your future career goals. Providing insight into your goals will help your recommenders highlight relevant skills and experiences in their letters.
  2. Plan ahead for your meeting. Think about the projects and activities you worked on that involved your recommender, and how those experiences complement your application and post-graduation goals. Don’t tell your recommender what to say, but help him or her remember some of the things you have accomplished that can be used in your recommendation letter.
  3. Bring a copy of your essays to share. Give recommenders a chance to read your story so they can better frame their own stories to share.
  4. If there is an area that you would consider a weakness in your application—quantitative skills, leadership opportunities, or project management, for example—talk to your recommenders about experiences that support your strength in these areas. If you haven’t had a chance to take on a formal leadership role, think about times when you led a discussion or brought a new idea forward, and ask your recommender if he or she would be comfortable sharing that example.
  5. Offer to send a calendar reminder for the recommendation letter deadlines, and let your recommenders know you will follow up with them a few days before each deadline to make sure they have the information they need.

Treat the recommendations as you do any other part of your application—as something for which you should reflect, plan, and prepare. In doing so, you can help ensure that the recommendations we receive are more than just general letters, but real and insightful takes on your candidacy.

It is our hope that the Common Letter of Recommendation will help you more easily manage your graduate school application and give you more time to work on its other areas. And by taking a little time to share your goals and ambitions with your recommenders, you have a great opportunity to allow the Admissions Committee to get to know you even better.