How to Mitigate a Weak GPA or GMAT Score
If you’re worried about low GRE or GMAT scores or GPA, there are still a few things you can do. This 6-minute conversation between Fortuna Director Caroline Diarte Edwards and Expert Coach Jessica Chung, former UCLA Anderson Associate Director of MBA Admissions, explores strategies for mitigating or fixing a lower-than-desirable academic record.
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Caroline: Hello everybody, my name is Caroline Diarte Edwards. I’m a director at Fortuna Admissions, and I’m here today with my colleague Jessica Chung, who was an Associate Director of MBA Admissions at UCLA Anderson and is now expert coaching for Fortuna Admissions. So Jessica, we want to talk about candidates who have a concern about their GMAT or their GPA, their academic track record, and how to potentially mitigate some weakness in that dimension. I know you’ve seen lots of candidates like that and clients with similar issues at Fortuna, so what advice would you give?
Jessica: Wonderful question, Caroline! As you mentioned, it’s one that we get a lot—I definitely got a lot of those when I was working in the admissions committee at UCLA Anderson and with clients today with Fortuna. I think the best way is, number one, to not think about yourself as a number. You are not your GMAT score, you are not you GPA. It is a significant portion of the application, but it is a holistic application review process, and really every component of the application is looked at and pondered upon by the admissions committee.
Just kind of thinking about it in that perspective, taking a step back and looking at it that way, it helps as you’re putting together your entire application as a whole. But in terms of mitigating specifically a GMAT or a test score that is on the lower end of the scale or maybe lower academics, there are a couple of things that I think that a candidate can do.
Number one, you can always consider retaking the GMAT or the GRE and most schools—disclaimer is you should make sure to talk the admissions offices of every school you’re applying to—but generally speaking, most schools are open to candidates taking the test more than once. And so it could be that you take it once, you weren’t very prepared for the format of the test, or you just had some nerves because it was your first time taking the GMAT or GRE, then we consider retaking it. Look at the elements that you found more difficult, focus on maybe strengthening or maybe getting some more practice, or some more assistance to help you to address those areas, and then you can go into the test again a bit more prepared.
The other part to that is don’t think about it as ‘oh I can just keep taking the GMAT over and over and over until I get the best score’ because there’s going to come point where your score is not really going to improve that much and your ROI is just really not going to be there. It’s probably better then just to spend the rest of your time making sure the rest of your application pops. Anyways consider that … They’ll probably see a history or a record of the times you’ve taken the test or sat for the test, but generally they’ll look the highest score when it comes to evaluating their candidates.
I’d also recommend thinking about ways that you can highlight any analytical or quantitative work experience that you might have. So, you might come from an investment banking background or some sort of other analytical experience but maybe you’re not the best test-taker. Again, since it’s a holistic review process I would say look for ways that you can highlight that very quantitative or analytical work that you’ve done. Definitely address that in interviews or any discussions that you might have with members of the admissions committee because I’m sure that could be an area that they might be concerned about. That’s always a good way, just to kind of look back, look at your resume and see if you can show ways that you have that kind of experience in real life because business school is a practical degree, so if you want to make sure that you really highlight that you’re able to do well in those kinds of analytical situations.
Also one other thing I’d recommend is if you come from—and this is more for those who perhaps come from an undergrad major where you didn’t have much quantative courses, perhaps maybe take a course in calculus or statistics or some other pretty heavily quantitative course where you can showcase that you can demonstrate or do well in these classes prior to starting business school. If you’ve taken a calculus course in undergrad and you are an engineer and you’ve gotten A’s in all these courses, it’s probably not going to make that much of a difference if you take that class again at an extension program or whatnot. But it’s really for those who want to add or supplement to your academic record or history you that might be useful just to give the admissions committee a little more reassurance about your quantitative strengths.
Caroline: Absolutely. It can reassure them on your ability but also on your commitment and your motivation to prepare for the program because sometimes and admissions committee will see a candidate—and they’re really excited about their profile, but they’re a bit nervous about particularly quantitative ability if they don’t have that type of background through their work or through a lot of their academic experience. So, taking some additional courses shows that you’re really working hard to prepare yourself to be able to hit the ground running when the MBA program starts. Admissions committees take that as a very positive signal that you’re doing everything you can to make sure that you’re well prepared for the program. Great, thank you very much Jessica!
Jessica: You’re welcome.