Getting In: The Best of Jon Fuller (The Sequel)



How Many Times Should I Take the GMAT?

“…generally, I wouldn’t go beyond three or four attempts, but whether or not you should retake the exam should be guided by your answers to a few questions:

One, what is your actual high score and how does that compare to the schools you are targeting? Are you above average? Within the 80th percentile ranges of those schools?

Two, what have your preparation and practice tests been showing you? If your actual test scores have been in line with your practice scores, then you very well may have already maximized your performance. If you’ve been underperforming on your actual tests based on your practice test results (say by at least 20 – 30 points), then you might be having some test-day challenges that you can fine tune.

Three, and this is a definite third in my book, what are the official/un-official score requirements for your intended applications? Many programs allow you to self-report your high GMAT score at the time of application and only require official scores if you’re admitted. If you’re applying to this “unofficial” sort of program and you haven’t ever sent a score report to that school, you’ll effectively be able to mask how many times you’ve taken the exam. If the program requires official scores and/or you’ve already sent them a score report, the cat is out of the bag and they’ll likely pay attention to all of your test instances as they review your app.”

How Important Are GMATs and GPAs?

“Schools put a healthy emphasis on academics for a few reasons . . . one, they want to see some evidence of academic ability, especially in quantitative contexts, so that they can be fairly confident that you’ll be OK in a fairly quantitatively rigorous MBA classroom. Two, they use academics as a differentiating factor – candidates with stronger academics/higher scores stand out more positively. Your GMAT score really hurts you a lot on both counts, and the adcom is likely putting all the more emphasis on it give your journalism background . . . I doubt that you had many/any quant courses in your prior academic experiences.”

“Your GPA [2.92] is really the most obvious one (BTW, did you happen to use the optional essay space to provide some context on your performance?). While I’m encouraged to hear that you improved over time in undergrad [Had an “abysmal experience first year, but stronger finish”], I really think you would benefit from developing an alternative transcript comprised of quantitative and MBA-relevant courses. While those courses wouldn’t completely offset your GPA, they would provide a more recent data point on your academic ability. You do have a strong GMAT (730 – although I’m also curious to know what your quant/verbal split was), but I can imagine how an adcom might wonder if you’re a good test taker but one who struggles when it comes to a traditional classroom environment.”

Overcoming a Low Quant Score (36th Percentile)

“….Given your academic background, adcoms will likely expect a healthy verbal score. However, that same academic background does cause you some problems given the lack of quant courses. As a result, the adcom will really, really be looking to the GMAT to get some confidence in your quantitative abilities, and your current subscore doesn’t really provide much of that and your IR, while certainly good, is not leveraged as a measure of quant ability.

I do recommend that you retake it. On the bright side, at least you know what you need to focus on. Given your initial performance with little prep, hopefully you’ll be able to roughly replicate your verbal while bringing up your quant substantially.”

What If My GPA Tailed Off at the End of School?

“…when any application reader looks at your academic profile/transcript, they’ll look at where you went to school (UVA = good stuff), the relevance of your major (double major with lots of evidence of quant and business-related coursework = more good stuff), your overall GPA (3.5 a little on the low side for H/W, but overall = competitive), and performance over time. This last one is where you’re potentially going to run into some trouble. They’ll notice the downward slide, and as you noted, that will be a concern. Of course, adcoms are going to want to see improvement over time or steady and strong performance, not limping to the finish.

But it is what it is, and regardless, I wouldn’t let that element actually dissuade you from applying to top tier programs, especially given your strong GMAT performance. Just know that the last three semesters of your undergrad will be flagged and a source of conversation among the adcom. As a result, you’ll likely want to take advantage of the optional essay space to provide a little context around what happened during that time that impacted your performance, what you learned from that experience, etc. Whatever you do, don’t leave it up to the adcom’s interpretation.”

Is a 3.2 GPA Good Enough to Get Into the Part-Time Programs at Booth and Kellogg?

“At a first glance, your academics don’t give me much pause. The 3.2 isn’t going to immediately set off alarm bells like a sub-3.0 might…However, they’re not just going to look at your 3.2 and move on – they will look at your transcript to see how you achieved that 3.2 and will certainly notice the GPA rollercoaster you had in undergrad. As a result, I do agree that it makes sense to use the optional essay space to give a little context and to show some self-awareness. In that essay, just acknowledging that “I had too much fun” or something like that isn’t going to wipe the slate clean, but you can help yourself by quickly shifting gears to how you learned from that experience as is evidenced by your consistency in X and Y aspects of your life in more recent years.”


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