For most business school applicants, “low stats” are GMATs and GPAs at the lower end of or below the mid-80% range for a given school. It may be difficult to find average GPAs, but if you have a 2.6, you know it’s low for almost any MBA program. Except for the most elite schools, where the number is higher, a GPA below 3.0 warrants a deliberate effort to counterbalance.
Here are 6 tips for applying with low numbers:
1. Analyze your situation. Which numbers are low – test score (GRE or GMAT), GPA, or both? If your GPA is low, did you have an upward trend that would show the committee you improved during college? Did you have one bad semester that pulled you down? If the problem is your test score, is there one section that is stronger than the other?
2. Address low quant scores (GMAT/GRE and transcript) by: taking additional courses for higher grades; highlighting your quant-oriented achievements in your essays; and asking recommenders to confirm your quantitative ability.
3. Address low verbal scores (GMAT/GRE and transcript) by: writing fantastic essays; taking additional courses that focus on business communication or involve substantial writing; and asking recommenders to comment on your communication skills.
4. Make your essays count! Draw on examples of your accomplishments, leadership skills, and exceptional impact to counterbalance the low scores.
5. Pick the right schools to apply to. Some schools are more focused on numbers, while others are known for a more holistic review.
6. Consider the optional essay. If your scores are below the 80% range, you’ll probably want to acknowledge and provide context for your situation. The optional essay provides an opportunity to briefly explain the circumstances behind your scores. If you write the optional essay, make it short and straightforward. Provide a brief explanation, take responsibility, and focus on evidence of your talents that counters the impression made by the low stats. Also, explain (or, ideally, show through example and anecdote) that either you have dealt with the problem causing the poor grades, or the circumstances no longer apply.