Will an Extra Recommendation from Dad’s Friend Help Admission Odds?


A friend of my dad's knows the dean of the business school where I'm applying and offered to put in a good word for me. First of all, will that help or hurt me? And second, what exactly would he even say to them in his recommendation? "I know someone you should admit?" That feels a little bit awkward.

You will want to tread carefully when padding your application with unsolicited recommendations. Such extra letters probably won't help, and might even hurt. Sometimes it can seem to admission committees that desperate candidates are seeking favors from family friends or vague acquaintances who really don't know them at all.

So “The Dean" suggests that your dad's friend should only write on your behalf if ...

1) He actually knows you


2) Your prospective supporter is such a big shot that the dean of the business school may be happy to do him a favor.

The answer to the first question will be easy for you but the second one could be trickier. You should talk to your father about his friend's relationship with the dean. Why does your dad think his recommendation will influence the dean and then, in turn, the admission committee? Is this man connected to the university besides knowing the dean? Perhaps he's even a big donor or a VIP in the world beyond the campus?

Here is an earlier “Ask the Dean" column that covers the dos and don'ts of VIP letters. If you decide to forge ahead with the letter but the author doesn't know you, I would suggest that you meet with him first (Skype or FaceTime will work if he's not local) so that he can interview you about your background and, in particular, your reasons for wanting to attend this college. Try to cover ground that isn't already in your application so his letter can provide details that admission folks haven't already seen.

But before you proceed, show this column — and the previous one cited above — to your father, especially if he's pressuring you to obtain the extra letter. He may end up understanding why it won't boost your admission odds and might even hurt them a tiny bit.


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