I met up with a Prof who was the lecturer and tutor of a few modules that I took as an undergrad. On the agenda:
i. to find out more about one of the university that I am interested in (he had his PhD there, but from another school)
ii. to ask him to be my recommender.
I thought the likelihood of him being my recommender was very slim, as I didn't really establish a relationship with him during my studies. Moreover, it had been 5 years since I graduated. So I wasn't confident about him agreeing to help with the recommendation. Nevertheless, I was very excited when he agreed to meet up.
I talked to him for about 45 mins to find out more about a particular school that I am applying to. The Prof shared candidly about the school and its environment. Initially, he was a bit shocked after hearing the schools that I am applying to. He hinted that I better have had done well for my GMAT. After hearing my GMAT score and working experience, he was very encouraging. He gave me the impression that I shouldn't have problem getting in.
Nevertheless, he still advised me to considering applying to some "safety schools". This is because the top schools are quite competitive to get in. There is a possibility that I get in without funding. By having safety schools, I would at least guarantee myself with some financial support. He added that safety schools are not bad schools - there are people who graduated from lower ranked schools and are doing well as researchers. I thought he gave a very good advice: Instead of looking at the brandname, look for schools where there are supportive supervisors who can help you to write good thesis.
Just before leaving his office, I asked him would it be OK if I were to approach him as my recommender. I was just hoping to get a good recommendation from him. He said it was no problem at all and he would like to write me a strong recommendation. What a fantastic surprise! Thank God for opening the door once more.