I'm An Older Applicant—Who Should I Go To For An MBA Recommendation?

Kristen Lindeman and Shauna LaFauci, associate directors of admissions at MIT Sloan School of Management, answer your Applicant Question of the Week

It's time for another BusinessBecause Applicant Question of the Week!


Every week, we give you the opportunity to ask one of our chosen admissions experts anything you want to know about getting into business school. One question each week is chosen for our expert to answer.

This week, our question comes from Allen. He's an older applicant looking to use an MBA to transition from the education sector into business, and launch his own startup. But, he's is unsure who to go to for a recommendation.

His question is answered by Shauna LaFauci and Kristen Lindeman (pictured right), assistant directors of admissions at MIT Sloan School of Management.

Applicant Question of the Week:

Dear BusinessBecause, 

I'm an older applicant (52) looking to do an MBA to transition from the education sector into business. However, at this age, though I have many successful peers they cannot speak of my merits as a student under their supervision, or my work ethic. Who should I go to for recommendations?

The Answer:

When applying to an MBA program, it is generally recommended to include a professional recommendation versus an academic recommendation, unless the school specifically asks for an academic letter of recommendation. Anyone coming directly from an undergraduate program may want to include an academic recommendation if that faculty member can speak to leadership and team experiences, or work outside of the classroom such as research assistantships, or serving as an advisor to a project.

Your recommenders should be people who know you best and can speak to your professional accomplishments and leadership development. In most cases, this would be someone who has supervised you directly; however, business schools understand that not every applicant is in a position to ask a current direct supervisor to write such a recommendation.

Fortunately, there are several alternatives.

If your prior work was entrepreneurial in nature, you might consider asking a client, mentor, or co-founder for a recommendation. It is likely these individuals have witnessed your abilities firsthand.

You might also consider reaching out to a previous supervisor, if this seems appropriate, and ask that they speak to your past performance.

An important consideration is selecting someone who can effectively answer the recommendation letter questions, which often revolve around how your performance compares to that of peers, using specific examples along with any constructive feedback you may have received.

Most schools list these questions within their applications for you to review in advance, so a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if the person you are considering can best speak to those questions and provide specific examples.

In addition, many business schools’ applications contain an optional section, where you can provide an explanation about your choice of recommender along with how your personal situation has influenced your choice. Clarifying this for those of us in Admissions gives us more insight into the reasoning behind your selection, and improves our ability to evaluate you.

Ask an Admissions Expert a Question!


Need advice on your MBA application? Unsure about admissions requirements or where to apply? Ask an expert!

Next week, Tamara Huf, MBA admissions officer at Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, will be here to answer YOUR admissions questions.

Tamara has worked in MBA admissions at Frankfurt School since 2014, so she knows the tricks to succeed on your business school application.

You can submit a question on our TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn pages, send us an email to info@businessbecause.com, or simply post a comment below! 


Leave a comment.

Please Enter the Code Below