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Will A Poor Academic Record Prevent You From Getting Into A Top Business School?

Cristina Sassot, director of admissions for Full Time MBA & MSc Programmes at ESADE Business School answers your Applicant Question of the Week

Thu Mar 7 2019

It's time for another Applicant Question of the Week at BusinessBecause!

Every week, we give you the opportunity to ask one of our chosen admissions experts anything you want to know about getting into business school. One question each week is chosen for our expert to answer.

This week, our question comes from business school applicant Vibhor Garg (pictured).2

Vibhor is a final year college student from India who is preparing to take his GMAT exam. He has a range of work experience and qualifications but suffers from migraines which have affected his academic scores, however he is hoping that this will not prevent him from getting in to a top business school.

His question is answered by Cristina Sassot, director of admissions for Full-Time MBA and MSc Programmes at ESADE Business School.

Applicant Question of the Week:

Dear BusinessBecause,

Does having a poor academic record in your school or college prevent you from getting in to a top business school?

The Answer:

Firstly, candidates’ academic backgrounds should always be seen as one component of their overall applications. Their work-experience (in the case of the MBA), maturity, extracurricular activities and future career goals are also relevant.

Business schools do, of course, assess candidates’ academic background very carefully. It's an indicator of candidates’ future performance during the program. The transcripts help the Admissions Committee not only to select the best candidates but, also those that can start and finish the program. In this respect, academic transcripts play an important role.

However, candidates’ grade point average (GPA) is not the only factor the Admissions Committee takes in to account. At ESADE Business School, we analyse academic transcripts in depth because they provide other useful information, such as what candidates are interested in based on their choice of specialisations or elective courses, as well as their willingness to make an extra effort depending on the difficulty of those classes and their ability to manage a heavy workload at any given time.

A poor academic transcript does not necessarily mean that candidates will not be accepted by top business schools. When completing their applications, it is extremely important for candidates to discuss any aspect of their transcripts which might generate doubts amongst committee members: Why are their final GPAs low? Why did their marks drop one specific semester? Why did they change university or bachelor’s degree programme?

A coherent and well-argued explanation of any irregular element within academic transcripts may incline the Admissions Committee one way or another.

Given that there is nothing candidates can do to improve their final GPAs once they have completed their undergraduate degrees, we recommend candidates compensate poor academic transcripts with strong GMAT or GRE scores. These two standardised tests are commonly used alongside candidates’ academic transcripts as indicators of their possible academic performance in the future.

Solid scores will help to ensure that the Admissions Committee doesn’t harbour any doubts regarding candidates’ future performance and will make their applications more competitive compared to others’. It is worth remembering that competition to get into top business schools is extremely intense and that every component in candidates’ applications counts.

Ask an Admissions Expert a Question!

Next week, you'll have the opportunity to ask Sarah Campbell, senior assistant director of MBA recruitment and admissions for Fisher College of Business, anything you would like to know about applying to MBA programs. sarah campbell 2

Sarah has been in this position for almost three years and knows what to look out for in prospective applicants. She also has an MBA from Saint Joseph’s College, so she knows first hand what it’s like to go through the application process.

Got a question you'd love Sarah to answer? Submit your question on our TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn pages, send us an email to, or simply post a comment below!