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How Your GPA Is Considered In Your MBA Application

Your work experience is stellar. Your essay is powerful. Your letters of recommendation are convincing. Sound perfect? Just one flaw: your GPA is below average.

The GPA is a critical component of the MBA application. But how do MBA admissions committees actually view it when looking at your candidacy?

Cindy Tokumitsu, of Accepted, recently discussed how adcoms view your GPA and how it fits into your MBA application.

A Holistic View

Experts say GPA is certainly important for an MBA, but it may not be as heavily weighted as you think when compared to other aspects of your application.

“Your undergraduate GPA is important – this is true – but adcoms view your GPA (like the rest of the application) holistically,” Tokumitsu writes. “And this isn’t just how they view low GPAs, but how they view all GPAs.”

When compared to other graduate level degree programs, the MBA is a bit more holistic in its application process.

“Unlike law school and med school admissions which are really, really based very much on numbers — your scores, your grades — the business school admissions process is really much more comprehensive,” Deena Maerowitz, a partner and principal at The Bertram Group, an educational consulting firm, and a former associate director of admissions at Columbia Business School, tells US News.

How Adcoms View The GPA

Tokumitsu says that while GPA isn’t the only thing that’s considered, a poor GPA could raise signs.

“First, no matter how well or how poorly your GPA represents your actual ability, the adcom will consider it and take note of it when reviewing your application,” Tokumitsu writes. “You cannot, by convincing explanations or subsequent courses, erase a low undergrad GPA from adcom consideration, but you can work to mitigate it, sometimes substantially.”

If you do have a poor GPA, it’s important to explain the context behind it.

“They can see some aspects of that context automatically when they look at your transcript (like rigor of courses and school), but for other contextual hints (like pneumonia during your sophomore year), you will need to state them directly, usually in an optional essay,” Tokumitsu writes. “They will see whether your GPA trends up (good) or down (a problem that might need explaining), and they will see from other areas of your application whether you were working during school and/or participated in a lot of activities, etc.”

Regardless of your GPA, there is no ‘one way’ that adcoms will view it.

“It’s nuanced, unique to the candidate, and qualitative,” Tokumitsu writes. “Try to see your GPA in their eyes to determine (a) if you need to provide context for your performance, (b) if you should take steps to mitigate your low GPA like additional courses, and (c) whether your GPA in its holistic context enhances your candidacy at a given school.”

Sources: Accepted, US News