It’s not uncommon for students to have an academic transgression in their undergraduate experience. Perhaps you failed your introductory computer programming course as I did, or just never got your mind around all those esoteric English courses or math courses. Even if you graduated with a decent GPA, unless you had a perfect record, you likely have something you can point to in college that you wish you could do over. While you can’t go back and literally do it over again, you do have the opportunity now to build what some refer to as an “alternative transcript,” which can help mitigate the poor performance of the past and reassure the admissions committee you now have what it takes to succeed in a rigorous curriculum.
Building an alternative transcript simply means taking classes at a local school or university, either on a for-credit or not-for-credit basis and doing well, which in turn will yield a documented record which you can include in your business school applications to help demonstrate your aptitude either in something you did not do well on in your past, or perhaps did not take at all. A common example is calculus. Lots of folks either did poorly in college calculus or didn’t even take it, and since most business schools want you to show up having taken calculus, you can make some progress with admissions if you pursue it on your own before you apply.
Some people use an alternative transcript to take business courses which they feel will help them be prepared for business school. For students who were liberal arts majors, for example, building an alternative transcript with accounting, finance or statistics courses can not only demonstrate aptitude but also show them you are really serious about being ready for school. The real benefit of building an alternative transcript is that it actually does help you show up to b-school more confident and ready to tackle the curriculum. You are paying a lot for school, so getting the most out of it sometimes means putting something in ahead of time.
If you decide to build an alternate transcript, do it wisely. Make sure you are taking courses that will be valuable to the schools to which you are applying and will give you the kind of credibility you are seeking. While online courses can sometimes be a fine choice, be careful in general about where you gain the credentials, since schools will give you more acknowledgement for taking courses from an accredited, known school vs. a correspondence course, for example. Additionally, make sure you are taking courses which are appropriately difficult. If you have a low quant score on the GMAT and are trying to demonstrate your math skills, simply taking an introductory math course at the local community college will likely not earn you any points and be a waste of time and money.
Ultimately, you must demonstrate you have the academic chops to make it through two years of quantitative and analytical coursework at the graduate level. GMAT scores are good indicators of aptitude, and doing well in courses you are able to take before you matriculate can go a long way as well.
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Scott Bryant has over 25 years of professional post undergraduate experience in the entertainment industry as well as on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs. He served on the admissions committee at the Fuqua School of Business where he received his MBA and now works part time in retirement for a top tier business school. He has been consulting with Veritas Prep clients for the past six admissions seasons. See more of his articles here.