Recommendations are a popular topic among applicants, and today we are sharing a few tips and strategies for this part of the application.

Only one recommendation is required in Darden’s admissions process (with the exception of the Future Year Scholars Program).

View Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions Dawna Clarke’s video below for even more insights on recommendations.


Recommendations can be one of the more time intensive parts of your application. This is understandable – after all, this is the one part of your application you won’t complete yourself! To account for that, we suggest you make sure to give your recommenders plenty of time to submit their recommendations; for example give them at least two weeks to ensure they can complete the recommendation in a timeline manner. We have found that most recommenders (essentially most people!) are motivated by a deadline, so make sure your recommenders know your application deadline and don’t be afraid to stay in touch with them throughout the process.

What if your recommendation hasn’t been submitted by the application deadline? We are always happy to work with you, but we will not be able to move your application through our review process until we receive your recommendation. If your application is incomplete at the deadline, we will reach out to you about any missing materials. But be proactive! If you know your recommender will need a few more days to complete their recommendation, please reach out and let us know!

Who to Ask

Choose someone who knows you well! Our Admissions Committee will focus on the content of the recommendation, not the title/position of the individual who provides it, so make sure your recommender can help us learn more about your accomplishments and leadership through specific examples and anecdotes.

In our Executive MBA and Part-Time MBA application processes, we have a strong preference for current supervisor recommendations. After all, you will be working while pursuing your degree, and we want to know you have discussed your interest in participating in our program with your manager before you begin the application process.

There may be reasons why you might not ask your current supervisor — you may both be new to the relationship, you recently transitioned companies, etc.. If you choose not to ask your current supervisor to be one of your recommenders, be sure to use the Additional Comments section to help us understand the reason(s) for this choice.

Pro Tip: Applicants can include up to two recommendations with their application materials, and we are often asked why an applicant might include a second recommendation. This is where your story and your application priorities come in. Spending 15-20 minutes of reflection before approaching the application process can help determine what you want to convey through the application. Consider how can the different parts of the application help you advance these goals. Candidates sometimes feel that a second recommendation would help the Admissions Committee better understand their professional story.

What Exactly is Required From a Recommender?

The recommendation process does not require a letter of recommendation. Your recommender will actually fill out two pieces of information — a ratings grid in which they will evaluate you across a set of competencies and a series of short answer questions.

The short answers questions are:

  1. Please provide a brief description of your interaction with the applicant and, if applicable, the applicant’s role in your organization (Recommended word count: 50 words).
  2. How does the performance of the applicant compare to that of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles (Recommended word count: 500 words)? 
  3. Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response (Recommended word count: 500 words).

What Happens Next?

Our recommendation process is entirely electronic, so once you enter your recommender’s information in your application, they will receive an email with a link to our recommendation materials. This email occasionally gets caught in spam filters, so be sure to check in with your recommender a day or two after you enter their information to make sure they received the recommendation email. We can always re-send if needed!

 You will receive an email once your recommender submits their recommendation, and the check box on your application checklist next to the recommender’s name will change from a red “x” to a green check mark.  

Another great tip is that applicants do not need to wait for their recommender to complete the recommendation process before submit the application. Your recommendation will automatically associate with your application once it’s received!