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GPA, grades

How to Offset a Low GPA

Your GPA is one of many factors that admissions officers consider for business school.

“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.

Still, applying to B-school with a low GPA certainly doesn’t help. Danae Anderson, a Senior Admissions Consultant with Menlo Coaching and contributor at, recently offered a few tips to improving your candidacy if you’re applying to B-school with a weak GPA.


One of the most effective ways to offset a low GPA is to earn a high GMAT score.

“The GMAT was designed by business schools for business schools, so a high GMAT score is one of the most effective ways of predicting your success throughout and beyond your MBA,” Anderson says. “Achieving a high GMAT score proves to the AdCom that you have the aptitude to keep up with their curriculum. Further, your high GMAT score will help boost the average GMAT score of your incoming class – a factor that will have a direct impact on your program’s ranking.”


If your GPA is below the average for a B-school, be sure to emphasize accomplishments in your resume that can speak to your potential. These can include academic achievements, contributions at work, or awards you’ve received.

“Be sure to present these achievements in a measurable way that can easily be compared to a well-defined pool of peers,” Anderson says.

Extracurriculars are also another area that can help demonstrate your potential.

“To business schools, extracurriculars are a great way to show your leadership skills and determination to make an impact,” Anderson says. “Can you talk about a charity you’re involved with? Or a club or society you’ve taken a leadership position in? Can you demonstrate the effect you had on this initiative’s success? Aside from emphasizing your skills, extracurriculars can also help your application stand out more by showing the unique experiences and perspectives that you will bring to the program.”


A strong letter of recommendation can help offset a low GPA as these letters demonstrate your abilities and potential to success in an MBA program.

“Because your recommenders are – or should be – more advanced in their careers than you are, their enthusiasm and belief in you and your potential will fortify your profile,” Anderson says. “Choose recommenders who can speak with enthusiasm and specificity about your skills and achievements, and encourage them to use specific examples in their letters. It may also be appropriate to highlight one or two recent projects that you worked on together.”


Next Page: Tips for Harvard’s 2+2 Program Essays

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