Going into the MBA application season with a low GPA can be an unnerving situation. Your GPA was set long ago, you are years removed from your undergraduate days, and you know this statistic will appear in your applications no matter what. What can you do?
Well, the first thing to keep in mind is that your GPA is not evaluated in a vacuum – all GPAs are not created equally, so depending on the reputation of your undergraduate college, rigor of your major, and performance in your analytical courses (hopefully you have taken some), the perception of your GPA can rise or fall from the actual number on your transcript.
Assuming you actually have a low GPA – one that is “materially” below the listed average score at your target program – now is the time to take action. Now, these tips are really only potential options for those who have the time to follow them; if you are closing in on an application deadline, it will be difficult to make much of an impact here. For most, the two major options you have to address a low GPA are to take additional coursework and/or focus on your GMAT score.
As referenced earlier, your GPA is not an independent data point. It often is taken in concert with other factors, and the most impactful of these is one’s GMAT score. In the eyes of the Admissions Committee, the GMAT is similar to your GPA – both are seen as measures of your intellectual aptitude, and both are also considered to be indicators of your ability to perform in the heavily analytical first year of business school. So, if you are suffering from a low GPA, then the best action you can take to mitigate this red flag is to work on improving your existing GMAT score and aim to exceed the GMAT average of your target program.
For many, this may not be the best approach – a more obvious approach might be to take some additional coursework to counteract the low GPA. This is also something that could help, but when considering the more impactful approach (especially considering the time commitment each option requires) it can be difficult to do both for a working professional. This fact places even more importance on how a candidate prioritizes the limited time they are given during the application process.
Low GPA holders rejoice! All is not lost – prioritize your GMAT score to counteract that red flag and give your application a better chance at success.
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Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more articles by him here.