Sure, the admissions committees say they understand if I don't have a recommendation from a supervisor, but they don't mean it, right? Even if they say it is ok, if everyone else has a supervisor writing and I don't, then I am at disadvantage, right? Wrong.

We estimate that one of every five applicants has an issue with one of their current supervisors which prevents them from asking for a recommendation. Common issues include:

* Brief tenure with current firm
* Disclosing business school plans could compromise promotions, bonuses or potential increases in salary
* Supervisor is too busy to help and either refuses the request or tells the applicant to write the recommendation him/herself, which the applicant is unprepared to do
* Supervisor does not believe in the MBA degree and would not be supportive of this path
* Supervisor is a poor manager and refuses to assist junior staff
* Candidate is an entrepreneur or works in a family business and thus lacks a credible supervisor

If you have been reading our admissions myths series, then you know that one of our themes has been that the admissions office has no reason to disadvantage one group (those who have issues with recommenders) over another (those who have secured recommendations from supervisors). What incentive would they have to disqualify approximately twenty percent of the applicant pool for reasons beyond its control?

So, if you cannot ask your supervisor for his assistance, you should not worry about your situation but should seek to remedy it. You should simply consider alternatives - a past employer, mentor, supplier, client, legal counsel, representative from an industry association or anyone else who knows your work particularly well. Then, once you have made your alternate selection, you should briefly explain the nature of your situation and your relationship with this recommender in your optional essay. As long as you explain your choice, the admissions committee will understand your situation.