The Ultimate Deferred MBA Recommendation Letter Guide

Created by Kana Cummings in Articles 11 Jan 2023

Letters of recommendation are one of the most important parts of your Deferred MBA Application because they are the only place admissions officers can get an outside perspective on your candidacy. Given that thousands of qualified applicants are vying for a limited number of spots, a stellar letter of recommendation can be the difference between an acceptance and a rejection. 

In this guide, we break down the components of the Deferred MBA recommendation letter, explain in detail how to best select and prepare your recommenders, and offer advice on thanking and following up with your recommenders as you move through the application process. We have also included a rough timeline below to help guide your planning.  

Deferred MBA Recommendation Timeline 

Early Jan.

Mid/Late Jan.

Early Feb.


Early Apr.

Mid/Late Apr.

Identify recommenders and make initial asks

Draft recommender prep documents

Send recommenders prep document

Check in with recommenders

Check in with recommenders

Submit applications and thank your recommenders

Understanding the Deferred MBA Recommendation Letter

In general, there are two types of MBA recommendation letters - the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)’s common letter of recommendation (LOR) and school-specific letters of recommendation. 

Similar to the Common App used for undergraduate college admissions, the common LOR form provides recommenders with a standardized set of questions that are consistent across all school’s accepting this form. While word count requirements may vary slightly for each school, the common LOR allows recommenders to reuse content across recommendations. Top Deferred MBA programs accepting the common LOR include Stanford Graduate School of Business Deferred Enrollment and the Yale School of Management Silver Scholars Program.  

Common LOR Sections:

  • Personal information about the recommender (name, title, contact information, etc.)

  • Leadership Assessment Grid

    • 12 competencies and character traits that are grouped in five categories (achievement, influence, people, personal qualities, cognitive abilities) and evaluated on a five-point scale 

  • Recommendation Questions

    • Please provide a brief description of your interaction with the applicant and, if applicable, the applicant’s role in your organization.

    • How does the performance of the applicant compare to that of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? (e.g., what are the applicant’s principal strengths?)

    • Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.

    • Is there anything else we should know? (Optional)   

Other Deferred MBA Programs, such as the Columbia Business School Deferred Enrollment Program, ask recommenders to answer questions specific to their school. 

Columbia Business School Deferred Enrollment Program Recommendation Requirement: 

  • One letter of recommendation from a professor, mentor, internship supervisor or employer. We ask recommenders to consider the following when writing their recommendation (recommended limit - 1000 words): Please share how you feel the applicant will contribute to the Columbia Business School classroom and community.

Choosing Your Recommenders

Now that you have a good understanding of what MBA recommendation letters generally consist of, it’s time to think about who to ask to write your letters. 

There are four primary criteria you should consider. First, it’s important to make sure that the people you are considering meet the recommender requirements for the schools you are applying to. While many Deferred MBA programs accept recommendations from anyone who has supervised your work, some programs, such as Yale Silver Scholars, specify that one of the letters must be from an academic instructor. Check the guidelines for each school carefully as they can change from year to year. 

Once you have identified who is eligible, think about how well each of your prospective recommenders know you. How long have they known you for? In what capacities have they worked with you? The best MBA recommendation letters include several detailed anecdotes that bring your skills and personal qualities to life. If you feel that a prospective recommender might not be able to tell specific stories about your performance, they are likely not the best fit. 

In addition to knowing you well, your prospective recommenders should be excited about your decision to apply to Deferred MBA programs and have the capacity to dedicate the time and energy needed to write an outstanding letter of recommendation. They should be very enthusiastic about supporting your candidacy. If a prospective recommender asks you to draft your own letter, please kindly decline and find another recommender if possible. While you can offer your recommenders suggestions on examples to include (more on this in the next section), writing your own letter of recommendation is against the honor code of many MBA programs. 

The last key criteria that should be considered is the perspective that each potential recommender will bring. Try to select recommenders who will speak to different skills and strengths and add a new dimension to your application. For example, you might ask your summer internship manager who can speak to your professional abilities, and a mentor who supervised an extracurricular who can speak to your leadership skills. Oftentimes, Deferred MBA applicants will ask professors of classes they’ve done well in to write a letter of recommendation. However, these types of letters are generally not as useful to the admissions committee who wants to learn more about who you are as a person and professional overall. That being said, if you have worked as a professor’s teaching or research assistant and they can speak to traits beyond academic performance, that could be a great option! 

You may be wondering if it’s beneficial to have a senior executive or someone with an MBA from your dream school write your letter of recommendation. If they happen to also meet all of the criteria above, then you should definitely ask them! But do not ask the managing director from your summer internship that you had one coffee chat with just because she has a Harvard MBA. The strength of the relationship you have with your recommender is much more important than any title or credential. 

Preparing Your Recommenders 

Once you have selected your recommenders and confirmed that they are willing to write strong letters of recommendation to support your candidacy, prepare a detailed document for each recommender that includes all the information they need to write a powerful letter(s). Every recommender prep document should include the following components. 

  1. Reiterate your appreciation for their support. Your recommenders are taking time out of their busy schedules to help you out.

  2. Clearly outline the schools you are applying to, their respective deadlines, and how your recommender should submit their letter(s). This step is especially important if your recommender is writing letters for multiple schools - triple-check deadline dates and times (including time zones!) to make sure there are no mistakes or miscommunications. 

  3. For each school, provide a brief overview of the key evaluation criteria (this information can be found on each school’s website) and why you are interested in their specific program. 

  4. Explain the recommendation sections. If you are applying to schools that accept the Common LOR, consider sharing this article that outlines how to approach each section of the form with your recommender. 

  5. For each recommendation question, offer suggestions on specific anecdotes they might want to include. If you want your recommender to highlight certain skills or characteristics, group your suggested examples under the traits of interest. 

  6. Attach key application documents, such as your Deferred MBA Resume and an overview of your “MBA Story” (the narrative you are crafting in your essays and application overall) so your recommender can get a better idea of how you are presenting yourself to the admissions committee. 

You can also choose to go over the above information with your recommender during an in-person or virtual conversation, but it’s still a good idea to send them the document so they can have it on hand during the letter writing process. Check out EarlyAdmit’s free Letter of Recommendation Template if you want to see an example of a recommender prep document! 

Aim to send your recommender prep documents at least two months before the deadline to ensure that your recommenders have enough time to draft and revise their letters. Once you send the documents, check in around once a month in case they have any questions about the letter(s), and again a week before the deadline to ensure the letter(s) are submitted on time. 

Thanking Your Recommenders 

Yay! Your application and letters of recommendation are all submitted! Before you forget, take some time to send your recommenders a thoughtful thank you note, and a small gift if you would like. Additionally, keep your recommenders in the loop as you continue to the interview and decision stages of the application process. Your recommenders have invested significant time and energy in your application, so they will greatly appreciate hearing how everything turns out! 

You are now well on your way to getting outstanding Deferred MBA recommendation letters that will help your application rise to the top! If you have any questions regarding letters of recommendation or any other part of the application, don’t hesitate to reach out to Kana ( or another member of the EarlyAdmit team. Good luck!

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