If your undergraduate performance is dismal (read: under 3.0), is there ANY hope of being accepted into an MBA program? Do the math. Stanford’s Class of ’18 has an average GPA of 3.73. If they were to admit you with a 2.7 GPA, they would have to admit FOUR applicants with a perfect 4.0 to maintain their average. But it can be done.
Here are five things to consider as you proceed in your quest for an MBA:
Use Optional Essay to Explain
No excuses. Just explanations. Perhaps you were dealing with a family issue that took your focus away from classes. Or maybe you were paying for your education by working 30-hour weeks across several jobs. Share that you had a learning disability or medical condition that affected your ability to perform well in the classroom. It may be the case that you simply lacked the maturity to understand the importance of going to class and doing your work. Discuss what you learned and how you have grown since college. I worked with a client who was a first-generation college student working multiple jobs to pay for her education. At some point her car broke down and she had to ride her bike double digit miles to work THEN double digit miles to school because she couldn’t afford to live near either. She ended up getting a scholarship to a top entrepreneurial MBA program. Explain. It really is that simple.
Admissions committee wants to be confident that you will not repeat your undergraduate grades. Show that you are a different student today than you were in college. Enroll in a business-related course either online or at a local community college and get an ‘A’ on your transcript. Point to any certifications or licenses (e.g. CPA, CFA, Six Sigma) you have earned that demonstrate your ability to excel in coursework related to your career. Ask your recommenders to highlight your work ethic and commitment to delivering beyond their expectations. The last thing admissions committee wants to do is admit a candidate who does not have the ability to manage the courses in their program.
Round Out Your Application
Your undergrad GPA is just ONE data point in evaluating your candidacy. Just as Stanford would have to admit four students with 4.0s to make up for you, YOU need to make up for your lackluster GPA by getting A’s elsewhere in your application. Score 20-30 points above the average GMAT. Have recommendations that call you out as a ‘best in career’ candidate. Highlight work experiences through which you have developed skills and knowledge while making a quantifiable impact. Write compelling essays that connect your background and goals to the resources offered by each program.
Consider Alternatives to a Full-time Program
Not ALL MBA programs care so much about your 2.7 GPA. Top-ranked full-time MBA programs remain at the top of the rankings partly because their average GPAs are consistently above 3.5. Some of these same programs offer part-time MBA programs for which the rankings aren’t nearly as important. If you have seven or more years of work experience, that 2.7 GPA is ancient history AND there are wonderful mid-career or executive MBA programs that you might investigate. Alternatively, consider an industry specific MBA for which undergrad GPAs aren’t as important – NYU Stern recently announced MBA programs for technology and luxury and fashion.
I love YOU, YOU love ME!
MBA programs want to admit candidates who will make a positive impact on their communities. Pull out all the stops in getting to know a program. Attend every school event in your local area and make sure the admissions staff recognize your face and name. Arrange for a campus visit. Connect with students to learn more about the culture and how you will fit in. Reach out to alumni to have conversations about how the program helped them reach their goals. If you are a known entity to adcom when your application comes across the read pile, they may be shocked by the 2.7 GPA but willing to overlook this flaw because they have already fallen in love with YOU.
Most importantly, you need to take ownership of your unimpressive undergrad GPA. Present yourself as a professional is fully equipped to take on the rigor of an MBA program NOW.