Many MBA applicants feel very panicked about having bad grades. Some consider a 3.3 GPA in the danger zone; others are dancing on the 3.0 threshold and then there is the more extreme case of a 2.0.
The Misperception that GPA + GMAT + Work Experience = Everything
If you have a 3.0, the ticket is for you to arm yourself with a strong GMAT or GRE. That is necessary – but not sufficient.
There is often the perception that this is an "add water and stir" straightforward process where these numbers just need to line up a certain way. NOPE. This is a very nuanced process. A candidate's quality cannot be ascertained this way. The schools are selling other candidates to each other; they are selling the experience you will have interacting with other students, in large part.
So, it would be very risky and short-sighted to reduce things down to a simple formula like this. If these numbers are poor, they might keep you out of a top MBA program, however if they are strong, there is no guarantee of admission.
This is a qualitative process with some quantitative indicators that screen for aptitude, and help even the playing field between candidates of a similar profile.
Bad GMAT and Test Score
If you bring diversity to the class, they might forgive the test score to capitalize on that, but only if you have a very strong quant case. You can demonstrate this through a combination of the following:
• CFA designation
• HBX CORe transcript
• MBA Math transcript
• A, A-, or B+ grades in math-related undergrad courses
• Showing how the work you do requires quant skills
The Misperception of Lowish GPA as a Dealbreaker
While many candidates are trying to achieve the impossible with a 1.9, there are twice or three times as many candidates who have a 3.2 and feel all hope is lost. To be very plain and clear: if you have a GPA that is 3.0 or above, this is not a dealbreaker. You have work to do, you need a stronger than average test score, but you are not washed up.
The MBA admissions process looks at diversity, in all forms, quality of work experience, how interesting you are, and how likeable you appear to be!
Here are some things that can offset a weak GPA
• Work experience that brings diversity to the class
• A well-articulated record of leadership, teamwork, and problem solving
• A strong history of contribution to organizations and causes outside of work
• A diverse ethnicity or background showing how you can make a unique contribution inside and outside the classroom
• Interesting hobbies, a general showing of being into different things, being well-rounded rather than a work robot
However even if you have some of these things, if your UGPA dips below the 2.7 area, you should apply to as many schools as possible because it's unpredictable how things will fall for you.
A Holistic Process
Most of all, after doing these things to mitigate your poor grades, let it go and focus on your unique contribution that you can offer the programs.
It's not really a game of becoming adequate in all the check-the-box areas. It's more about being exceptional and not having red flags. It's important not to get so wrapped in being "good enough" in all areas that you forget about demonstrating how you shine, where you can really add value.
Focus on introspection, researching your goals and researching the schools. Really get a clear sense of your value proposition, focus on your strengths, figure out the wow factor for your application. Don't neglect extracurriculars, hobbies, and volunteer work. Continue to establish leadership in all those things for examples in the apps.
Your success in the applications will largely be predicated upon your ability to demonstrate your leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving skills. Through examples.
Lastly, don't forget that sentient beings are reading your applications. Your aim is to move and inspire them to let you join their special club.
No one will pound the table for your GPA or GMAT; but they will if you have established an emotional connection and they find you likeable.
Keep that at the forefront.
Bad Grades - Strategize for Success
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