How to Override a Low GPA in your MBA Application

Posted By SWatts on Dec 29, 2014 |

From The Staff of MBA
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How to Override a Low GPA in your MBA Application

When some people think about applying to business school, they start to look back with remorse at their undergraduate careers. All too often, candidates start wishing they had focused more intensely on their studies and grades. Even though some applicants may have enjoyed 2 or 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 2.9, a 2.5, or a 3.0, or simply lower than the GPA of the average admitted student to that business school. The ubiquitous question that looms for these applicants is: Am I doomed to fail in admissions because of my poor undergraduate track record?

Even if you have less than 4 years of work experience, a low GPA is possible to overcome if you have a skillfully composed application. Sure, your low GPA will represent a weak spot in your candidacy, but you can address this weak spot through the application you present. Your application should sing praises to show you as an excellent candidate from all angles and, in doing so, you should definitely address your low GPA. But, 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. Instead, you should address the matter indirectly by shining light on your other achievements that convey to the admissions committee that your defining and relevant achievements are your professional successes — not your academic performance. This should be the emphasis of your admissions essays and recommendations.

However, having a substantial amount of work experience certainly helps. With at least 3 years of experience, you can present essay content that demonstrates the depth and breadth of your professional skills and experiences. You want to reinforce the idea that you are no longer defined by your undergraduate experience. Ideally, your GMAT score should be strong, which will also reinforce the idea that you can excel academically. Use your recommendation letters to emphasize that you have excellent analytical skills and will bring distinction to business school. Some candidates take business courses after college at a reputable institution, acquiring an “alternative transcript”. Finally, if there was a particular reason for your lower-than-ideal undergraduate performance that is worthy of discussion, you can mention that in the optional section.

Remember, your full package is what matters. I have seen candidates with GPAs as low as 2.7 get into the business schools of Stanford, Harvard and Wharton. Taking the time to put together a compelling application will pay off.