GPA Matters Less Than You Think. Here’s Why

How To Apply as an Early Applicant

Business schools typically like to see three to five years of work experience in MBA applicants.

“In general, I say that because I think that if they have worked for three to five years, they have a better sense of what a graduate degree is going to do for them, so they would be better prepared,” Nikhil Varaiya, a finance professor at San Diego State University’s Fowler College of Business and the school’s former director of graduate programs, tells US News.

While most applicants will aim to apply mid-career, those who are early in their career may be eager to earn their MBA degree sooner. Fortune recently spoke to experts and discussed how early career applicants should go about navigating full-time MBA admissions.


One of the biggest advantages for early career MBA holders is getting the degree out of the way early on.

“I didn’t want to possibly get down the rabbit hole of, ‘I’m already in my career, I’m already making money. It’s very hard for me to walk away from that and go back into my MBA,’” says Michael Morse, 25, who earned his MBA in 2020 from the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, tells Fortune.

Additionally, earning an MBA early on can help speed up career progression.

“You may have an advantage over someone else, your peers, by being able to pivot and take on more responsibilities earlier than others,” Donna Swinford, associate dean for MBA student recruitment and admissions at Chicago Booth, tells Fortune.

While earning an MBA early may give you a boost in your career, it isn’t an easy feat to accomplish. MBA admissions officers like to see applicants who have strong work experience or can demonstrate leadership in other aspects.

“Work experience is important because of what it reveals about you in terms of your character, maturity, and abilities,” Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted, writes. “Even if your GPA and GMAT/GRE scores are spectacular, your work experience still needs to impress the admissions readers.”

If you don’t have the years of work experience, you’ll need to highlight other ways you’ve demonstrated strong leadership and impact.

“Many people cite their extracurriculars for leadership qualities and potential, as well,” Meredith Shields, Co-Founder of Vantage Point MBA Admissions Consulting, writes for P&Q. “Maybe you’ve been tutoring for an organization for several years and realized that the student drop-out rate was pretty high. Perhaps you were then proactive in considering what the issues may be and submitted a proposal to the executive director (even though this was far outside of your volunteer scope within the organization). Being a reliable contributor who goes above and beyond when the situation arises is a great quality to demonstrate on your applications.”

Sources: Fortune, Accepted, P&Q, US News

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