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’s chosen question was inspired by 33-year-old Utkarsh Shukla, an Indian engineer with eight years’ work experience.
Utkarsh works for one of India’s largest state-owned oil and gas companies. He’s planning to apply for top-ranked MBA programs in Europe and the US—Harvard, IMD, INSEAD, LBS, and LSE are on his radar—to progress towards leadership positions in the public sector.
His question is answered by Alex Min, an MBA graduate from MIT Sloan now CEO of admissions consulting firm The MBA Exchange. Today, 75 former MBA admissions officers, admissions committee members, interviewers and grads from Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, Wharton, INSEAD, MIT Sloan, and other top schools, make up the team at The MBA Exchange.
Applicant Question of the Week:
I am not a rote learner, rather I learn by way of understanding. I have been an average student in school and college with most marks in the range of 70% to 80%. However, I have performed better in non-institutional scenarios; I scored 99.62% in a prestigious engineering exam conducted by top institutes under the aegis of the government of India.
Should I highlight this information in my MBA application? I fear that this conveys that I am not fit for institutional education, although this isn’t true; my learning has come from interactions with professors rather than answering set questions. Is this information relevant for an admissions committee?
The very short answer is yes, you need to submit a college (undergraduate) GPA as part of your application, if you have a college degree and it is part of the application for the school you are applying to.
GPA and test scores (GMAT, GRE, and the NMAT which is accepted by some schools) are required by any accredited business school. They not only provide the admissions committees (adcoms) with a quick assessment of the applicant’s capacity and potential to follow along with the academics if they were to be admitted, but virtually any of the more popular rankings also use both data points as criteria for ranking schools.
A high GPA and/or test score does not guarantee admission, but a low GPA and/or test score can certainly be a candidacy constraint. A quick glance at the average GPAs and test scores of top tier business schools illustrates the highly competitive applicant pool.
However, adcoms look at all applicants and applications holistically. If your GPA is lower than the median for your target schools, there may be other means to show your academic capacity and potential. A high test score can certainly help mitigate the concerns the adcoms may otherwise have with a lower GPA. Other evidence, such as the high scores you mentioned with the engineering exams, cannot hurt, but everything needs to be presented to the adcoms in proper context.
For applicants with lower GPAs, it is essential to provide the adcoms with any relevant information that shows the GPA is not indicative of the applicant’s true academic capacity and potential. Providing evidence can be through many different forms including, but not limited to, high scores in standardized tests, performance at work requiring analytical and quantitative abilities, high marks in courses taken after college, especially quantitatively rigorous courses.
The challenge can be in trying to ascertain whether something might be relevant and appropriate to the adcoms or not. That is something a good experienced admissions consultant can help with.
In summary, if you have a college degree, not including your GPA in your application is not really an option. However, keeping in mind the holistic nature of business school admissions, the idea is to portray a full story that includes all relevant aspects of one’s candidacy, and there are ways to mitigate the constraint of a low GPA.
Ask an Admissions Expert a Question
With years of experience in corporate India, and now heading up one of the country’s most unique MBA programs, if there’s anything you want to know about getting accepted into business school in India or elsewhere, Aditya is your man.