If your college GPA is low, then you need to provide evidence that even though you may have faltered back then, now you’re ready to bring your A-game and are capable of academic excellence.
But how can you demonstrate that you’re b-school material, even with your low stats?
Accepted advise their clients to take these 3 steps when overcoming a low GPA. Doing so will help you present a solid case to the admissions board that shows you mean academic business.
Step #1: Identify the cause of your low GPA.
Is it low because you partied a little too hard your first two semesters, but then buckled down after that and worked to pull up your low freshman GPA? Or did you start out high and then get really lazy and bored with school your senior year and let things spiral out of control? Or is it possible that your low GPA is truly an indication that your workload was too challenging and that you’re just not school material? Or perhaps you were dealing with a serious illness or family problems? Or maybe back then you just weren’t motivated to succeed?
Step #2: Address the issue.
Once you determine that you are motivated this time around and are capable and competent academically, then it’s time to take action to improve your profile (It’s also possible that after deep introspection you decide that school is just not for you, and if so, consider yourself lucky that you figured that out now and not after you’ve paid $100,000+ on even more schooling – and yes, sometimes this is exactly how we advise our clients.)
Obviously, you can’t go back and raise your undergraduate GPA, but there are things you CAN do to show the adcom that your undergrad GPA doesn’t define your current academic abilities:
- Take a few business-related college-level courses and earn A’s in them.
- Ace the GMAT.
Step #3: Explain the context of your low GPA.
There are three places in your MBA application where you may want to address a low GPA: (1) the optional essay; (2) the required portions of the application; and (3) your letters of recommendation.
In the optional essay, and in a non-whiny, non-defensive tone, you can clearly and straightforwardly explain why your GPA is lower than it should be. Perhaps there was a death in the family one semester or maybe you had emergency surgery that left you on bed rest for three weeks mid-semester. Or maybe you just didn’t realize the importance of grades until halfway through your sophomore year, and by then your GPA had taken a serious hit. Or maybe you worked thirty hours a week to support yourself. Let the reader know the context of your grades. Write honestly and write well.
In other parts of the application, show the skills that your transcript hides without drawing attention to the grades. For example, if you did not do well in Econ 101 or college math classes, but are now doing some really heavy lifting in terms of financial modeling, then either in your resume or in a required essay write about a quantitative challenge that you handled with élan.
Regarding letters of recommendation – getting a supervisor to vouch for your maturity and abilities is probably one of the best things you can do to bolster your case. Again, if you had poor grades in classes requiring a lot of writing, ask your boss if they can comment positively on your communications skills. If you had poor quant grades, ask if they can praise your quantitative analysis of a complex project. In either case, your boss doesn’t have to reference the negative you are trying to overcome – just the positives you want to bring out.
Through Identifying the cause of your low GPA, Addressing the issue, and Explaining the context of your low GPA, you’ll be better positioned for an acceptance to b-school despite – or even in spite of – your less-than-ideal GPA.
And you don’t need to navigate this process on your own. Get the individual guidance you need to create an application that shines – one that shows you at your very best and convinces the adcom you have what it takes to succeed. Check out Accepted’s MBA Admissions Consulting Services and get ACCEPTED!
Linda Abraham is the founder of Accepted, the premier admissions consultancy. She has coached MBA applicants to acceptance for over 20 years. The Wall Street Journal, US News, and Poets & Quants are among the media outlets that seek her admissions expertise.