The question of what GPA an MBA applicant should report is, at first glance, one of the simpler questions one would expect to receive during the business school application process. However, year in and year out, many applicants struggle to sort this question out.
For those who have received only one degree from the one university, this aspect of the application process tends to be pretty straightforward – your GPA is the number listed on your transcript and that is the number that should be used.
For those who tend to have confusion over what GPA to report, the challenge usually stems from having multiple transcripts from multiple schools. This is primarily the result of one or more of the following four situations:
Did you transfer from another college? Having two transcripts from two different schools can be the source off a lot of confusion. Generally, the degree-granting institution takes priority here, but if you transferred from a similarly-structured university, your GPA from your first school can also be factored in. The key here is that only courses that gave you credit toward your first bachelor’s degree count.
Did you study abroad? Most study abroad courses tend to be pass or fail and usually do not influence your GPA too much, given there cannot be a grade point associated with this result. Generally, your study abroad transcript is not necessary to include in your application package, but if you plan to discuss your study abroad classes elsewhere in your application, it may make sense to include your study abroad GPA as well.
Have you taken coursework in the past that did not relate to your degree? Many MBA candidates take classes online or at a community college after they graduate from undergrad to bolster their application profile. If you have taken such non-degree classes, you should include the transcripts from them in your application, but don’t worry about incorporating this performance into your reported GPA.
If you have secured a graduate degree prior to applying to business school, your GPA cannot be included in your MBA application as part of your reported GPA. Typically, there will be a separate area in your application to report your graduate GPA, but don’t look to combine this score with your undergraduate GPA. Remember, the only courses that count here are the ones that gave you credit towards your first bachelor’s degree.
All of the elements above can be positively associated with your academic aptitude, so just because they don’t feed directly into your reported GPA does not mean they are irrelevant. MBA programs will take a holistic look at your performance across these various touchpoints, as well as at the type of coursework and trends within your reported GPA.
The key with any of the situations above is to follow the guidelines of the school that you are applying to – many schools caution against calculating your GPA on your own, while others encourage it. You generally want to avoid converting your college’s scale to a different GPA scale, as that can open up even more confusion. Assume that the Admissions Committee is experienced with school-specific grade scales from all over the world, so defer to their expertise in this matter. Make sure you are clear on the GPA reporting protocol for the schools you are applying to, and don’t be afraid to use the optional or additional information section to address any potentially confusing aspects.
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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.