Basically, the title of the post says it all.
However, for a little review:
1. You cannot write your own recommendations.
(But you can help your recommenders come up with ideas for what they will write about.)
2. You also cannot have an admissions consultant help write or edit your recommendations. You cannot ferry drafts of letters between you and your admissions consultant, or invite your recommender to send drafts to the consultant.
Stanford states this quite clearly on their admissions website — which they shouldn’t have to do, because any competent professional admissions consultant would know it’s unethical to do this.
Because Stanford is posting that, though, then that tells us people are doing this (and that Stanford found out about it!!) and so we’ll help spread the word today that that would be unethical.
Which makes sense, right?
After all, say your recommender writes “John is a very good analyst.”
And then John’s admissions consultant gets ahold of that, and makes a suggestion that the recommender say “John is the best analyst.”
The recommender probably wants to help John get in, and now the admissions consultant has essentially given the recommender permission to exaggerate, bolster the truth, or outright lie in what they are saying.
(EssaySnark stands by the ethics of providing hands-off guidance to recommenders, through our Recommender’s Instructions Sets product, which walks through the questions that your specific school is asking and gives dos and don’ts to your recommender on how to handle them. Which is not at all the same as reviewing an already-written draft and suggesting changes to it.)
You may be sitting here thinking, “Darn it, my recommender isn’t a good writer, so screw this advice, I’m going to get my admissions consultant to help him anyway. Because who is going to ever find out?”
And maybe you’re right. Maybe no one will ever find out.
But clearly, Stanford found out that someone is doing this! That’s how the language on their website showed up. It wasn’t there in past seasons. Now it is. (Kinda like this with Columbia.)
There are going to be a near-infinite number of decisions that you are making on your MBA applications. However, none of them need to be done in a way that’s unethical. It’s totally possible for you to get in — yes, using coaching or a consultant, assuming it’s one who abides by professional standards and supports you by offering the appropriate amount of input, who empowers you with knowledge and techniques for how to present yourself, and critiques your work to help you see how you’re being effective and the ways that you’re not, to help you conquer the learning curve that is the process of developing good essays. But who doesn’t tell you what to write (and most certainly doesn’t write any essays or resume for you!!!!!) and who stays at arm’s length from your work product, so that you can feel confident that what you’re presenting is truly your own.
Note: There are no ethical problems with having an admissions consultant review letters of recommendation after they have been submitted and the decision rendered on the app, such as what we invite with the MBA Application Post-Mortem. Many applicants do get copies of their recommendation letters from recommenders. The cautions in this post are focusing on the issue of having an admissions consultant give their own input to the writing of the recommendation before it’s submitted. It’s fair game to have a consultant review the recommendation after the admissions team has rendered their decision. That can be useful, in helping you understand why your app was rejected or waitlisted instead of being outright accepted.