Top three tips: Choosing a strong reference for your graduate business school application

In the application process for graduate business school, your letter of recommendation is an opportunity to demonstrate your professional abilities through the eyes of someone who knows you well.

student and professor sitting down in chairs talking

While you are in control of the majority of your application materials, your reference letter is an opportunity to provide our admissions team with details about your professional characteristics from someone in your network. A strong recommendation can show our team the value you’ll bring to Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

What is a letter of recommendation?

A letter of recommendation is a document written by someone in your circle who knows you in a professional or academic capacity. This letter serves to support your qualifications, characteristics, strengths, and professional potential. Typically, these letters are written by professors, supervisors, mentors, or colleagues.

When to ask for a letter of recommendation

Writing a recommendation letter takes time. After you decide who you will reach out to, approach them at least two months before the application deadline. This provides them with a significant amount of time to write, revise, and submit a thoughtful and well-prepared letter. Be considerate of timing if you are asking a professor for a recommendation–what part of the semester is it? Finals? Mid-terms? Be sure to give them ample amounts of time to submit your letter by the deadline.

Top three tips for choosing a strong reference

A well-crafted letter of recommendation should highlight your professional attributes and provide specific examples that illustrate why you are an ideal candidate for Carey. These letters play a crucial role in the admissions process, so it’s important to choose a recommender who you trust.

1.     Choose someone who knows you and your professional strengths

Select an individual who has a deep understanding of your characteristics, strengths, professional capabilities, and goals. A recommender does not need to be the highest-ranking individual in your organization or institution but rather someone with whom you have had significant time working in an academic or professional capacity.

It is also important to note that your choice of recommender is a way for the admissions team to evaluate your self-awareness. The admissions team is looking to see if you can identify a recommender who will offer the best reflection of your skills and abilities. If the recommendation is brief, lukewarm, or has boilerplate accolades, that might be an indication that you may not have chosen the best fit.

2.     Avoid choosing family members or personal friends

While family members and close friends know you on a personal level, they might not have strong insight into your professional work ethic. The admissions team is looking for objective assessments of your capabilities, and recommendations from individuals you know personally might not seem as credible.

3.     Communicate effectively with your recommender

Maintaining open communication with your recommender ensures that the letter of recommendation is effective, tailored to your needs, and submitted in a timely manner, ultimately increasing your chances of success in the application process. Be sure to discuss deadlines and submission requirements well in advance to ensure that the recommendation is submitted on time and in the correct format. Offer additional context–or even a few written guidelines–to your recommender so they are better informed about topics they should focus their letter on. Communicating also gives you the opportunity to share essential information about your goals and achievements to ensure that the recommendation is aligned with the rest of your application.

Don’t forget–provide our admissions team with the name, title, and contact information for your reference within your application. Your recommender will then receive an email containing a personalized link to upload their letter of recommendation to your application. Be sure to inform your recommender ahead of time so that they will know to look for the link in their email inbox.

Letter of recommendation requirements for Johns Hopkins Carey Business School

Upcoming Carey application deadlines

Please visit our upcoming deadlines webpage to view all application, decision, and deposit deadlines.