Getting Into Business School With a Low GPA: 5 Top Tips

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Aside from your GMAT score, your GPA is the most important number on your MBA admissions application. Admissions committees look at your GPA as an indicator of past academic performance and as a predictor of whether or not you’ll succeed in their program. So can you get your MBA with a low GPA?

While a low undergraduate GPA certainly makes admission to business schools more difficult, it doesn’t make it impossible. In this guide, I’ll walk you through the ins and outs of low GPA MBA admissions. First, I’ll talk about why GPA matters to MBA programs. Next, I’ll talk about what actually counts as a low GPA for MBA programs. Finally, I’ll give you some tips and tricks for on getting into business school with a low GPA.

 

Why Does GPA Matter to Business Schools?

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If you’re applying to business school, you might be wondering if your undergraduate GPA even matters to admissions committees. After all, there are plenty of other criteria on your application: GMAT scores, work and volunteer experience, recommendations, personal statements… In the face of all of this information, do admissions committees even care about GPA?

The answer is yes: admissions absolutely committees do care about GPA. In fact, according to a 2014 survey from Kaplan, GPA is the second most important factor in MBA admissions decisions, behind GMAT scores.

What makes GPA so important to business schools? Well, schools see your undergraduate GPA as an indicator of your future success in their program. If you did well as an undergraduate, admissions committees see you as more likely to do well with the rigorous business school course load.

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Because GPA is used to predict future success in business school classes, low grades in classes related to business (such as quant classes, accounting classes, or economics classes) may be particularly worrisome to admissions committees because they show that you might struggle with the business school curriculum. I’ll talk about how to deal with low grades in your undergraduate coursework in a later section.

Business schools also care about GPAs because the average GPA of admitted applicants factor into their overall rankings. The higher the average GPA of their admitted applicants, the higher a business program will rank in national rankings.

Despite the fact that GPAs are important to admissions, having a low GPA doesn’t mean you can’t get into business school. Later, I’ll offer some tips for making your application stronger when you apply for an MBA with a low GPA . But first, let’s talk about what a low GPA even means.

 

What Is a Low GPA for Business School?

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Now that we know why GPA matters, let’s focus on what a low GPA for business school means.

If you’ve been stressed out about not having a perfect 4.0 for your undergraduate coursework, you’ll be happy to know that MBA programs do not expect you to have a flawless transcript. In fact, business programs don’t have cutoff scores for GPAs, so you don’t have to worry about specifically looking for MBA programs with low GPA requirements. While the average GPA of admitted applicants varies greatly depending on the program, there are some general trends that I’ll talk about.

Unsurprisingly, the M7 (the unofficial group of the top seven business schools in the United States) have the highest average GPAs amongst admitted applicants. All M7 schools have an average GPA of 3.50 or higher for their admitted applicants.

The rest of the top 25 business schools range between 3.30 and 3.60 GPAs for admitted applicants. Business schools ranked 26 – 50 have an admitted applicant GPA range of 3.16 – 3.52.

What does this all mean? Well, you’ll notice that all of the top 50 business schools have average GPAs of 3.16 or higher amongst their admitted applicants. Ultimately, you’ll need to do research on the MBA program of your choice to see exactly what its admitted applicant average GPA is so you can see how you stack up. You can generally find this information in one of three ways: by checking out the program’s ranking on US News & World Report, by visiting the program’s website, or by calling the program’s admissions office. Finding out how your GPA relates to the average GPA of admitted applicants at the MBA programs you’re applying to will tell you whether or not your GPA is in an acceptable range, or if you’ll have to do some extra work for getting into business school with a low GPA.

Having a GPA up to .50 away from the average GPA of admitted applicants at a particular program isn’t the end of the world. You’ll be able to try to make up for your GPA with a strong overall application, which I’ll talk about more in the next section. If your GPA is more than .50 away from the average GPA of admitted applicants at your program, you may have a more difficult time getting accepted. If your GPA is more than .50 away, I’d suggest using a number of the application tips I outline in the next section and considering applying to some MBA programs with lower average GPAs.

 

How to Get Into Business School With a Low GPA

So you’ve looked into the programs you’re interested in and you’ve found that your GPA is squarely below the average GPA of admitted applicants. Don’t worry! Getting into business school with a low GPA is definitely possible and there are ways that you can make up for low grades in undergrad. In this section, I’ll give you some tips and tricks for low GPA MBA admissions and how to make yourself stand out.

 

#1: Take Extra Courses

Taking extra courses is a great way to demonstrate that you’re dedicated to improving your grades and mastering difficult coursework. If you struggled with a particular subject, such as macroeconomics, as an undergraduate, you can take courses at a local community college or enroll in a post-baccalaureate program to try and boost your performance. Take a number of classes so that you develop an alternative transcript to present to business schools.

Developing an alternative transcript will provide admissions committees with more evidence regarding your academic performance. You’ll also be able to improve on bad grades, showing that you’ve got the tenacity and academic chops to do well with the rigorous business school course load.

 

#2: Get a High GMAT Score

As I mentioned before, your GMAT score is seen as the most important factor on your MBA admissions application by 61% of business schools.

Having a killer GMAT score (above the average GPA of admitted applicants at your target MBA programs) will set you apart from other applicants and guarantee that your application gets noticed.

MBA programs use the GMAT as another indicator of academic performance, so scoring high on the GMAT will show that you’re a smart and capable student and help make up for a low GPA in MBA admissions.

 

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#3: Offer a Compelling Explanation in Your Essay

If you had a number of extenuating circumstances that contributed to your low undergraduate GPA, you’ll want to use the optional essay to explain them. Perhaps you suffered an unexpected death in your immediate family, or struggled with an illness for many months. Telling admissions committees what happened gives them a more holistic idea of your performance.

You’ll want to make sure that your reason is really compelling. An admissions committee probably won’t see the death of your pet rabbit as a good enough reason for a drop in GPA. However, truly life-changing, extenuating circumstances can and should be talked about on your MBA admissions essay.


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#4: Get (and Do Well at) a Competitive Job

Business schools care a lot about placing their students in competitive positions. Doing so benefits their ranking and makes more applicants want to attend their program.

If you struggled with your undergraduate coursework, getting and excelling at a competitive job will help show that you have what it takes to make it in the business world. If you can, get a job at a feeder company that has a relationship with the programs you’re applying to. For instance, if you’re applying to a business school that has its own internship program with Accenture, getting a job on your own at Accenture shows that you can succeed and be hirable after graduation.

 

#5: Demonstrate Exceptional Accomplishments

Business schools like admitting applicants with interesting, unique backgrounds to add diversity of experience to their class profiles. Have you done something amazing as an undergraduate? Maybe you organized a march that had 30,000 attendees or raised thousands of dollars for charity. Maybe you traveled around the world helping people in rural communities start small businesses. Or, you led a transformative initiative at the company you’ve been working at. Make sure that you highlight these achievements on your application. You’ll show that you’re a remarkable applicant that’d add a lot to the class’ profile.

 

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Low GPA MBA Admissions: The Bottom Line

It is possible to successfully apply to an MBA with a low GPA, and plenty of students do so every year. However, you may need to due some extra legwork to make it happen.

First, you should figure out how low your GPA actually is compared to the expectations of your target schools. Then, consider what you can do on your business school to make up for your low GPA. Finally, you may want to look for MBA programs with low GPA requirements, like executive or online programs.

 

What’s Next?

We’ve talked about low GPA MBA admissions, but what’s a good GPA for business school? Check out our complete guide to learn what schools expect and what will make you stand out.

You can’t change your GPA, but you can change your GMAT score! Learn what makes a good GMAT score in our guide.

Questions about how to really beat the GMAT? Our guide to the ten top GMAT strategies will have you reaching your goal score in no time.

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