MBA Admissions A-Z: U is for Undergrad Grades

U_is_for_undergrad_grades3 Steps for Handling a Low Undergraduate GPA

Grades show whether you previously performed well in an academic setting. If your college GPA is low, then you need to provide evidence that even though you may have faltered back then, now you’ve got you’re A-game and are capable of academic excellence.

But how?

The following 3 steps will help you overcome a low GPA and present a solid case to the admissions board that you mean academic business:

1.  Identify.

First, 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 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?

Once you understand why you have a less-than-impressive GPA, you’ll have an easier time figuring out what to do next (Step 2) and how to explain the situation (Step 3).

2.  Ameliorate.

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. (And if after deep introspection you decide that school is just not for you, then consider yourself lucky that you figured that out now and not after you’ve paid $100,000+ on even more schooling.)

Obviously, you can’t go back and raise your undergraduate GPA, but there are steps you can take NOW 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.

3.  Explain.

There are three places in your MBA application where you may want to address a low GPA: the optional essay, the required portions of the application, and your letters of recommendation.

In a non-whiny, non-defensive tone, you can clearly and straightforwardly explain why your GPA is lower than it should be in the optional essay. 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 now are do 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 elan.

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 she can comment positively on your communications skills. If you had poor quant grades, ask if she 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.

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Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy

Related Resources:

• MBA Admissions Tip: Dealing with a Low GPA
• How to Handle a Low GMAT Quant Score
• How to Handle a Low GMAT Verbal Score

Boost your GPA for Medical School Acceptance

Watch the webinar Get Accepted to Medical School with Low Stats

A low GPA is probably the hardest area to improve. But it can be done.

In our last Medical School Reapplicant Advice: 6 Tips for Success segment, we talked about how to best present yourself in your secondaries and interviews. Today we’ll move forward and discuss ways to boost your GPA, another important feature of your med school application profile.

Feeling a bit fragile after these first sections? That’s to be expected – you’ve just gone undergone a pretty brutal review of your life. But the admissions committee is scrutinizing submissions with the same critical eye. Anticipating the problems so you can correct them is critical for success in your next attempt. And to start out, let’s look at how you can “fix” a poor GPA.

A low GPA is probably the hardest area to improve. This makes sense – it was years in the making, and can’t be undone without time. It can take about a year in advanced level science courses to bump a high 2.x GPA over 3.0. The lower your GPA, and the more classes you’ve taken, the longer it will take to reflect improvements in your academic record.

Fortunately, whether your GPA is just a bit off the mark or well below the competitive level, there are steps you can take.

Apply to an international medical school. Pursuing a medical degree abroad might be a viable option for you. The required GPA is often lower than the U.S. average and in some programs, the MCAT is not required. Courses are often taught by U.S. academic physicians with clinical rotations in the U.S. But if you do decide to attend an international medical school, realize that you will have to contend with many different challenges – from language barriers to culture shock – that could affect your studies.

Probably the biggest challenge for international medical graduates is securing a residency program after completing medical school. Only 50.9% of IMGs match to PGY1 programs, although the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates reports a consistent increase in this number over the past decade. I’ve worked with many successful IMGs over this same time period. What sets them apart is that they make up for any lack in their initial qualifications by working harder than the average medical student. They’re heavily involved in university activities, community healthcare initiatives, and international competitions. And significantly, they’re the ones who can express the advantages of their non-US medical education, including resourcefulness and the deep grounding in diagnoses that comes from doing without modern diagnostic equipment.

If you’re interested in an international program, do your research. Some Caribbean programs such as Ross UniversitySt. George’s University, and the American University of the Caribbean have consistently high placement rates. Israeli programs like Sackler and Ben-Gurion have partnerships with American programs; likewise, the University of Queensland has an attractive option for U.S. students. And Ireland’s Atlantic Bridge program, although quite competitive, is flexible in its approach to the GPAs of qualified American and Canadian students.

Apply to a DO program. If your application is competitive but you just didn’t make the cut, consider an osteopathic medical program. Because there are fewer applicants, you might have a better chance. Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DOs) focus on integrating the whole person into the healthcare process, which makes them especially strong in family practice, general internal medicine, and pediatrics. They are fully licensed physicians; they train in the same residency programs, take the same national board exams, and sit for the identical USMLE exams that the MD students do. Your chance of securing a residency might be less – in the 2014 residency match, 77.7% of DOs matched compared to 94.4% of US senior MDs  but the steady rise in DO matches suggests that any stigma against osteopathic physicians is changing.

The good news for borderline candidates is that DO schools have lower GPAs and MCAT requirements: The mean GPA for the 2014 entering class was 3.43, while the mean MCAT score was 26 (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine). There are a number of programs worth exploring: West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, Lincoln Memorial (Harrogate, TN), Nova Southeastern (Ft. Lauderdale), Touro (Vallejo, CA, Lake Erie (Erie, PA) and Western University (Pomona) all have strong programs that are less competitive. West Virginia, for instance, had the lowest reported average GPA (3.4) of all medical schools and an average MCAT score of 25. However, 55% of their graduates matched at their top residency program.

If you care more about being a doctor than the letters after your name, the DO route is definitely something to think about. However, getting into one of these programs is still going to require a strong GPA. So what can you do if your grades are lower?

Boost your GPA with post-baccalaureate classes. This is a popular route, especially for applicants who did well on the MCAT but need some help with their GPA. Retaking science classes can show you’ve mastered the material, but a better strategy is to take advanced classes and do well. If you have any doubt about your ability to get an A, then this is probably not the best path for you.

The quality of the institution offering the courses is important – community college won’t cut it. The best option is to see if your own alma mater will allow you to take additional courses; often this can be done at a reduced cost. If this doesn’t work out, Syracuse University has a very useful list of programs that offer post-bac courses in the sciences.

Improve your GPA with a science-based master’s program. This is another preferred route for would-be reapplicants, because it provides opportunities for more independent, self-directed research and demonstrates scientific acumen. It can be especially useful if you don’t have a research background already. Keep in mind though that you need to excel in your coursework and that you will have to finish the entire program; making below-average grades or dropping out before the program ends will do you more harm than good when you reapply to med school.

Master’s programs aren’t right for everybody – you might not want to commit to a multi-year program, or you might not be confident about your academic performance. Or you might not have the minimum GPA required for admittance in the first place. In that case:

Prove your potential in a special master’s program (SMPs). These programs, usually a year long, are often associated with a medical school. Students are immersed in a rigorous science-based curriculum almost identical to what they will face in medical school; often, they are even taking classes or being graded alongside first year med students. Success in these courses can show the admissions committee that you’re ready for medical training, which means that once you’re accepted into a SMP, the odds are very good you’ll eventually get into medical school.

Several programs cater to the lower end of the GPA/MCAT spectrum:

East Virginia Medical School M.S. in Biomedical Sciences: In the past five years, 90% of students have been accepted to med school after completion of EVMS’ program. The program runs for two semesters; the majority of courses are taught by faculty in the medical school. They require at least a 2.75 GPA and a 27 on your MCAT. They recommend applying by April, but applications are accepted through May.

• The Virginia Commonwealth University: Pre-Medical Basic Health Certificate Program: Graduates completing the program with a 3.5 GPA/28 MCAT are guaranteed an interview at VCU School of Medicine. They require a 3.0 GPA and 25 MCAT for admission, and applications are accepted until July 1st.

• Drexel’s Medical Science Program (MSP): The year-long MSP offers graduate-level biological science coursework, formal MCAT preparation, community outreach, and undergraduate review courses in chemistry, physics, and organic chemistry. A 3.0 GPA and either a 17 on the MCAT or 70th percentile on the GRE is required for entry to the program. Success in the program guarantees admission to Drexel’s Masters of Biological Science or the IMS course.

• Drexel’s Interdepartmental Medical Science (IMS) Program: Students spend 18 months in first-year medical school classes. Successful completion of their coursework enables them to continue on for another year to earn the MS of Medical Science. They are also guaranteed an interview at the Drexel School of Medicine. Applications are accepted year-round; a 3.0 GPA and an MCAT score of 27 or better is required.

Because SMPs have a reputation as a more certain path to medical school, they can be quite competitive. If you are still determined to be a physician but don’t have the GPA to get into a program, there’s one more route available.

GPA bump followed by an SMP. This method is a bit circuitous, but it does work. First, you need to get your GPA up – a year of good grades in upper-level science courses might be enough to get you up to a 3.0. At that point, you can apply to an SMP with strong links to a medical school. This will take you a minimum two years, which might not seem appealing at this point. However, look upon it as a way to build your confidence and shore up the science and study skills that will enable you to excel in medical school.

Boosting your GPA is likely to test your resolve to be a doctor. The next year(s) won’t be quick or easy, and you may question whether the effort is even worth it. You might find it’s not, and that is fine – there are many other worthwhile careers you can pursue. But if you keep your eyes on the prize, then in all likelihood you’ll be wearing a white coat someday.

Next, we’ll look at some of the other concrete steps you can take to improve your profile – and your chances of succeeding in medical school. Still have questions? Contact to see how our admissions consultants can help you.

Download Medical School Reapplicant Tips for Succcess

Cydney Foote By , Accepted consultant and author of Write Your Way to Medical School, who has helped future physicians craft winning applications since 2001.

Related Resources:

• How to Get into Medical School with Low Stats , a free webinar
• Applying to Medical School with Low Stats: What You Need to Know, a free guide
• Study Skills: How to Improve your GPA to Become a More Competitive Med School Applicant

Should You Apply to a Postbac Program?

Click here to order your copy of The Definitive Guide to Pre-Medical Postbaccalaureate Programs Not sure if your profile and qualifications are strong enough to get you into med school this year? Maybe it’s time to consider another route to med school: attending a post baccalaureate program first. This is an excellent option for pre-meds who are concerned that their low stats, non-science education, or lack of clinical work experience aren’t quite up to snuff in the race for acceptance to med school

Don’t second guess yourself! You CAN achieve your dream of becoming a physician with the experience and knowledge you gain with a pre-med postbac program.

And to help you…we’d like to unveil the just-released, outstanding new book that will walk you through the postbac admissions maze, The Definitive Guide to Pre-Medical Post Baccalaureate Programs.

Written by former postbac program director and current consultant, Alicia McNease Nimonkar, this guide will teach you:

• The pros and cons of attending a postbac or specialized master’s degree program.

• Success stories of former postbac students who are now medical students and doctors.

• An index of all the different programs in the U.S.

• Tips on how to study and succeed in a post baccalaureate program

…and more!

Get your hands on the definitive postbac guide on the market today. Buy The Definitive Guide to Pre-Medical Postbaccalaureate Programs now!

Click here to download your guide! Helping You Write Your Best

What Are My Chances? Energy Sector Veteran With an Entrepreneurial Spark

This blog post is part of a series of MBA profile evaluations called “What are My Chances?” by Michelle Stockman. Michelle, who started consulting for Accepted in 2007 and worked previously in the Columbia Business School admissions office, will provide selected applicants with school recommendations as well as an assessment of their strengths and weaknesses.

If you would like Michelle to evaluate your profile at no charge and as part of this series, please provide the information requested at

PROFILE #8: Sachin, energy sector veteran with an entrepreneurial spark

Check out more MBA applicant profile evaluations!

Stop right there. Retake your GMAT!

Note: This profile request arrived with very little information.

Give me more details folks!

-BACKGROUND: 30+ Indian male who graduated in 2001 from Nagpur University in India. Chemical engineer with 12 years managerial experience in the natural gas industry.

Sachin, why now? That would be my question for you.

You’re on the older end of the scale when it comes to MBA candidates. You’ve got to explain why you’re ready to interrupt your career for two years, lose income, and perhaps give up your current management position to pursue an MBA.

It’s not enough to be in a mid-career funk.

At first glance, if you want to advance your career within the industry, you might fit better into an EMBA program. Have you considered that?

-GOALS: Progress career within the energy industry, pursue entrepreneurship allied to the energy sector, and contribute towards India’s social development.

These goals definitely make sense with what you’ve shared about your background. When writing your essays, you should share specific, personal examples from your work experience that show past leadership successes. Then state what skills you are missing that an MBA will address.

As an older candidate, you also need to show you have the industry network and connections to move into your next position. Don’t think you can rely only on career services to make this transition.

-GMAT: 580 Verbal-37 Quant-77

Halt. Hit the breaks. Stop right there.

This is not a competitive GMAT score. Other aspects of your profile are really going to have to stand out for you to be accepted to any school. Right now they do not.

Retake your GMAT.

-GPA: 73.5%

Very good GPA from a strong, though relatively lesser known Indian university in terms of international renown. It’s not so important though, as you graduated more than a decade ago. Your GMAT is a better indicator, at this point, of your ability to keep up in an MBA classroom.

-EXTRACURRICULAR: Teamwork in social activities.

This is very vague. What kinds of activities? What did you accomplish?


Sorry. I’m not going to recommend any schools for you. Believe it or not, I’ve read applications with about this level of information from the candidate. They don’t get past a first read.

Sachin, you’ve got to go on some long walks and think about why you really want an MBA. What do you hope to achieve? What stories from your past indicate your leadership potential?

Don’t approach your MBA from a mental space of feeling stuck or wanting out of your current situation.

Research, have conversations throughout the energy sector, then connect the dots from your past to your future. Make your ability to do something extraordinary within your industry sound plausible.

Get clear, practical guidelines for answering the MBA goals essay question. Click here to download our free report.

Michelle Stockman is a professional journalist, former Columbia Business School admissions insider, and experienced MBA admissions consultant.


Related Resources:

What are My Chances?: Rahul, the Indian Male IT Guy 
Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One 

Leadership in Admissions 

Can You Get Into B-School with Low Stats?

Yes! Not everyone who goes to Harvard scores a perfect 800 and has a GPA of 4.0 (in fact, very few actually hit those perfect scores).

If you’re stats are less than ideal, that doesn’t (always) mean that you need to cross your top schools off your list!

Yes you CAN get accepted to a top b-school with low stats!

Now’s your chance to catch up on valuable information you may have missed during our webinar, How to Get Accepted to B-School with Low Stats. B-school applicants with low GPA and/or GMAT scores – you don’t want to miss this!

View How to Get Accepted to B-School with Low Stats for free now!

Watch the webinar Helping You Write Your Best