How to Address a Low GPA in Your MBA Applications

report cardA low GPA’s is one of the foremost concerns among those applying to business school. Even having a GPA that seemed “okay” in undergrad now probably seems a little mediocre if you’re aiming for a top MBA program. And if your GPA is actually low, you’re sure to be even more concerned.

With no way to actually change this aspect of your profile, how can you address your GPA concerns?

1) Present a Strong GMAT Score & Additional Credentials
The best way to mitigate a low GPA is to get a great GMAT score – scoring above the average of your target program will alleviate any potential concerns the Admissions Committee may have about your academic potential to keep pace with the school’s rigorous curriculum. A higher score could boost your chances for admission, and even scholarships. Thus, investing the time, effort, and resources to maximize your potential to score as high as you can on the GMAT makes sense.

Obtaining credentials such as a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) title or taking on additional courses at your local community college are also helpful in showing that you will be able to handle the coursework of business school, as well as contribute to, and reap the benefits of, your future class discussions.

2) Provide Context
Sometimes life circumstances – including illnesses, family responsibilities, or competing priorities – can have a negative impact on one’s GPA. If this is the case, the optional essay can be a good space to discuss your situation. In doing this, it is better not to come off as making excuses. Instead, use this opportunity to play up other highlights of your profile or lessons you have learned from your experience.

For instance, running the family business during an emergency while also attending school is a life experience that instills responsibility and maturity at a young age. Likewise, juggling studies and team practices to represent your school in a particular sport can give context as to why your GPA does not reflect your full potential, while also playing up other dimensions of your profile and helping you stand out.

3) Showcase Your Unique Qualities
Another way to make your MBA application more compelling is to make sure that you present strong, unique qualities or experiences that you can bring to the school. This could be in the form of your diverse background, or through your involvement in an interesting cause. If your GPA is below the norm at the school you are applying to, it is very important to justify why they should accommodate you with a spot. Thus, you need to be able to convince the Admissions Committee that you will be able to truly enrich the experiences of your peers, and of the school community, as a whole.

Identify the specifics of the MBA program you are interested in and show them how you have done well in similar environments. Substantiating this with concrete accomplishments and demonstrated impact will help present how your goals at school, and post-MBA, are both worthwhile and achievable.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.