How Important is My College GPA After Four Years of Work Experience?

Posted By SWatts on Dec 22, 2013 |

From The Staff of MBA

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How Important is My College GPA After Four Years of Work Experience?

Some applicants to business school have achieved great success in their business careers and look back with remorse at their undergraduate performance, wishing they had striven more arduously for strong grades. While some applicants might have already enjoyed 2-3 promotions before applying to business school, which speaks to their professional success, their undergraduate GPA tells a different story. That GPA could be a 3.0, a 2.8, or a 2.5. Perhaps a tad bit lower. A question that looms large in the minds of such applicants is, “After four years of work experience, am I doomed in the business school admissions process because of my poor undergraduate performance?”

The good news is that, even for applicants with less work experience than four years, if you put together a business school application skillfully, it should be possible in many cases to overcome a low GPA. Certainly, the undergraduate performance will represent a “soft” or weak spot in your candidacy, but you can address this weak spot through the application you present. Addressing it does not mean simply writing a paragraph about it in the “optional” section of the application, which some candidates might choose to do. Rather, addressing the matter can also be done indirectly by shining the light – through the MBA essays and recommendations – on the other achievements that convey to the admissions committee that after four years, your defining and relevant achievements are your professional successes, not your academic performance.

With four years of work experience, you can present essay content that demonstrates the deepening and broadening of your professional skills and experiences, reinforcing the idea that you have matured into a highly effective and impactful young professional and that you are no longer defined by your undergraduate performance. Ideally, your GMAT score should be strong, which will also reinforce these ideas.

Strive to secure recommendation letters that emphasize this same message. Some candidates take business courses after college at a reputable institution, building an “alternative transcript” that provides evidence of their current abilities. If there was a particular reason for your lower-than-ideal undergraduate performance that is worthy of discussion, you can also mention that in the optional section and that may make a difference.

I have seen candidates with GPAs as low as 2.7 get into top business schools such as Stanford, Harvard and Wharton. In most cases, it is ultimately your entire candidacy that matters, so take the time to put together a compelling application.