After weeks of deliberating, you’ve finally narrowed down the list of MBA programs you’re applying to. You’re a well-rounded candidate with plenty of experience under your belt, but there’s one thing that’s troubling you: your Grade Point Average, or GPA.
Your GPA indicates how well you performed in your undergraduate degree courses and is usually scored on a GPA scale between 1.0 and 4.0.
Now you’re probably asking yourself: what is a good GPA? Is GPA important when it comes to applying for an MBA program?
And what should you do if you’ve got a low GPA and want to pursue an MBA?
What is a good GPA?
Generally speaking, a ‘good’ GPA is anything between 3.0 and 3.5. However, what a good GPA is differs depending on the business school you’re applying for.
At some of the world’s best business schools like Harvard Business School, Stanford, or Wharton, a GPA score of higher than 3.5 is commonplace among MBA students.
Meanwhile, the average MBA GPA score at Indiana University Kelley School of Business is 3.33.
Since many business schools, including top MBA programs at Harvard and Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, do not outline strict MBA GPA requirements in the form of a minimum target score, not having a certain score shouldn’t put you off applying for your dream business school.
“We accept students from a wide range of GPAs every year,” explains Christine Mayer (pictured), director of full-time admissions at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management.
Is GPA a good indicator of your readiness for an MBA?
You might be wondering, why is GPA important? Many business schools request a GPA as it’s one of many ways to prove that you’re academically ready to handle an MBA or business master’s program.
Yet a GPA score doesn’t paint the whole picture.
“A high GPA will not automatically give us an indication as to how you will perform under pressure in a real-world situation,” notes Chris Healy (pictured), head of MBA recruitment at Alliance Manchester Business School.
There are, of course, many other ways to show how well you’d fit into an MBA program, such as your previous work experiences and extracurricular activities.
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Can you apply for an MBA with low GPA?
Fear not: a low GPA won’t automatically get you rejected from an MBA program.
Business schools consider MBA applications holistically, so the success of your application won’t boil down to a low GPA score, meaning that you can still apply for your target MBA with a low GPA.
Christine from Kellogg notes that test scores, along with undergraduate GPA, major, and course selection, as well as problem-solving and critical thinking skills, all help Kellogg assess a student’s readiness for their MBA program.
If you want to offset a low GPA score, then the GMAT or GRE offers the opportunity to do this.
Although, even impressive GMAT scores can’t guarantee a place on a competitive MBA program.
“When we evaluate an application, we look at your profile as a whole and consider how you will fit with the overall class. We aim to be confident that you’ll thrive and bring a unique perspective to the program,” says Rebecca Loades (pictured), director of career accelerator programs at ESMT Berlin. You can show your unique perspective by outlining what you’ll bring to the program and how the MBA is aligned with your career aspirations.
Highlighting a low GPA in your MBA application
If you do have a low GPA, you might be wondering whether it’s best to avoid drawing attention to it.
However, in many business school applications, schools will provide space for you to discuss any additional information that could be useful for admissions teams when reviewing your suitability for the program.
Rebecca from ESMT Berlin believes this space is a great opportunity to highlight a low GPA that may have been caused by a situation outside your control. “There can be many reasons why your grades suffered at some point during your studies, and we would like to learn more about you and what might have happened.”
It’s important that you use this section to explain, not excuse yourself, she adds.
There are also ways of showing you acknowledge a low GPA score and that it doesn’t represent an accurate image of who you are as a future MBA student.
“The additional information essay is a great place to address why your GPA may not be as strong as you would like and what steps you are taking to prepare for the rigor of a business school classroom,” says Christine from Kellogg.
Working hard in your undergraduate courses will improve your chances of gaining a solid GPA, which can help you land a place at your dream business school as it shows you’re smart enough to handle the academic rigor of an MBA program.
Yet, many schools don’t ask for a specific GPA score, so if you do happen to have a low score, then you can outline your strengths in the MBA application in other ways, such as volunteer experience, examples of when you’ve brought value to a company, or a good GMAT score.
Still, if you’re set on joining an elite-level MBA program, achieving a GPA score of 3.5 or more, plus proving your unique strengths in other areas, could help you do it.
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