ISB MBA Admission Tips - Recommendations and Scholarships

In the second part of this continued article, we discuss recommendations and scholarships, two aspects of the ISB application that are very important for potential candidates.  

Recommendations – how/who/why/and when?

A recommendation is a personal, privileged statement. It is supposed to be a fair and honest assessment of your abilities sent by your recommender, unseen by you, to the Admissions Committee. Unfortunately some applicants see this as merely a formality – they feel it is okay to prepare a ‘draft’ recommendation, and get it approved by your recommender before asking him/her to send it across. If you think this way too, then beware. As a former member of the ISB Admissions Committee, I can tell you that the school scrutinizes recommendations on various fronts. If there is at all a doubt about the integrity of your application, it can mean a permanent rejection, no further questions asked. Therefore, make sure that the recommendation is an honest one. On occasion, you might find your recommender requesting you for a list of your achievements and significant projects – it is okay to provide this to help jog his/her memory. The best way is to ask your recommender if he/she needs any information to help prepare the recommendation. If the answer is yes, provide just the facts.

Next, who should you ask for a recommendation? Make sure that the person is professionally (and not personally) related, is superior to you in the professional hierarchy, and is someone you have personally worked with. Getting a recommendation from the CEO will not do much good if he/she has not worked with you personally and cannot specifically comment on your abilities. While it is okay to get recommendations from clients, it is preferable to get them from someone who has known you over a longer professional span – this will usually be your manager. Former managers are fine as well, provided your association with them does not go too far back (getting a recommendation from someone who was your manager five years ago will not make too much of an impact).

Further, why is the recommendation important? It is important because it talks about your abilities from a professional perspective. It is a confirmation (or rejection!) of the professional achievements stated by you in your application. Just like a strong recommendation can bolster your application, an ambivalent one can weaken it.

Finally, when should you ask for a recommendation? We advise that you give your recommenders at least three weeks to prepare the recommendation and send it across. Remember, your recommendation is not a priority in your recommender’s life – make sure that you give your recommender enough time to carefully think through and give an honest and comprehensive evaluation of you.

Scholarships – merit or need based?

A common doubt that applicants have when applying to ISB is whether applying for a scholarship affects their chances for admission in any way. They are apprehensive that the school would give them admission only if they do not ask for a scholarship but may reject them if a scholarship is sought. Let me put these doubts to rest – the scholarship decision made by the school is independent of the admission decision. Therefore applying for a scholarship does not affect your chances of getting admitted!

Scholarships are awarded on two criteria – merit or need. If you are applying for the scholarship on a need basis, then clearly bring out reasons related to family income and financial responsibilities. However, do not forget to also express your abilities – remember, you will not get a scholarship just because of the financial criteria but because the Admissions Committee sees you as an individual with great potential, who deserves admission based on merit and financial help as a facilitation to study at an institute which has high fees.

About GyanOne

Gyan OneGyanOne is an educational services firm focused on premium GMAT coaching, application advisory (with a focus on ISB applications), and interview preparation for B-school admissions. GyanOne operates in the New Delhi region of India and has top global B-school alumni with a minimum score of 770 on the GMAT, as instructors. All GyanOne counsellors are professionally trained top B-school alumni with an experience of 100+ MBA applications behind them.

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