How Important is the Undergrad GPA After Four Years of Work Experience?

Posted By SWatts on Jun 6, 2014 | 0 comments

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How Important is the Undergrad GPA After Four Years of Work Experience?

A low undergraduate GPA does not necessarily mean that you will fail in your career; and a high GPA does not necessarily mean that you will succeed. Some business school applicants have achieved great success in their careers, but look back with regret at their undergraduate years and final grades. Even if an applicant has experienced two or three promotions before applying to business school, showing their ability to proceed in the professional realm, their undergraduate GPA tells a different story. A lower-than-ideal GPA could be a 3.0, 2.9, or 2.5 – maybe lower, maybe higher. However, many applicants continue to question whether they are doomed in business school admissions because of their poor college performance — even after four years of work experience.

Thankfully, even applicants with only one or two years of work experience can achieve admissions success with a low GPA…if their business school application is skillfully put together. Candidates choose to address a low GPA in different ways. Some candidates simply write a paragraph about it in the “optional” section of the application. However, I recommend addressing the matter indirectly by shining light – through the application essays and recommendations – on the many other achievements that convey to the admissions committee that after four years, what defines your candidacy is your professional successes, not your academic performance.

Keep in mind, it certainly helps if you have three or more years of work experience. With that time under your belt, you can present essay content that shows you have deepened your professional skills and experiences, reinforcing the idea that you are no longer defined by your undergraduate experience. It also helps if your GMAT score is strong, which will reinforce the idea that you have strong academic skills. Your recommendation letters should underscore this same message – that you have excellent analytical skills and will bring these skills to business school. As an alternative, some candidates take business courses after college at a reputable institution, creating an “alternative transcript”. 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 business school candidates with GPAs as low as 2.7 get into Stanford, Harvard and Wharton. The most important message I can communicate is that your whole package matters, so take the time to put together a compelling application.

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