In my previous article, I laid out the five elements of your candidacy that you must pay attention to when planning your MBA application. We will talk about the first one in this post: undergraduate performance.
Your academic performance as an undergrad, from your first year to your last, is extremely important to any graduate program, and MBA programs are no exception. Traditionally, admissions committees analyze three aspects of your academic record:
- Your performance in each of your classes, particularly in the most rigorous courses and/or those most relevant to the MBA. It’s important that you provide context for any dips in gradesthat are significant enough to merit an explanation; many schools offer the opportunity to discuss any gaps or discrepancies in the optional essay. This is the place to clarify whether your grades suffered because you were trying to balance a job with your studies, dealing with a personal or family situation, or navigating any other unusual event that negatively affected your grades.
- The reputation and selectivity of the institution where you studied.If you have reason to believe that your undergraduate institution will not be familiar to the business school you are applying to, it’s important that you provide the admissions committee with objective information regarding its reputation, rankings, and selectivity. For example, some universities select their students through a very rigorous admission exam. If this was the case with your school, and you were therefore one of the few selected, make sure to include that information in your application.
- The continuity of your performance.Adcoms look very carefully at the academic workloadyou carried each semester and pay particular attention to periods in which you might have lessened your workload. For example, perhaps you took a semester-long break to work full-time or decided one year to take two classes instead of the usual five. Be prepared to justify and/or explain your decision in the appropriate part of the application.
If your grades in math and/or other quantitative classes are low, I recommend that you take pre-MBA courses in subjects such as accounting, finance, calculus, and statistics. You can take these at any accredited university or community college, but make sure you earn solid As in all of them. This will on the success of your application because you will be showing that you are now able to handle the academic rigor of the MBA curriculum.
Finally, make sure to demonstrate your academic capacity with a strong score on the GMAT or GRE, which is the topic of the next article in this series.
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Esmeralda Cardenal is a former associate director of admissions at Yale SOM, director of MBA admissions at Michigan State University Broad, and consultant at Cardiff Business School in the United Kingdom. Since 2014, she has guided Accepted clients to acceptance in various graduate programs, including MBA and master’s in finance, business analytics, data science, sustainability, and public policy. Want Esmeralda to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!
• MBA Action Plan: 6 Steps for the 6 Months Before You Apply
• How to Apply Successfully to Grad School Despite a Low GPA, a podcast Episode 458
• So, You’re Applying to Business School with a Low GPA or GMAT Score?