Not proud of your undergraduate GPA? Concerned it may ruin your chances of getting into a top MBA program? It’s time to tackle this issue head-on and create a plan for successfully applying to business school with a low GPA.
How Low is Low?
Maybe you’re a perfectionist so you’re bummed about your 3.9 GPA, so let’s be clear about what “low” really means. First, please – if your GPA is more than 3.7, you’re FINE (in this area at least). Save your worry-energy for something else.
For our purposes, a low GPA is:
1. One that is .3 on the U.S. 4.0 scale or more below your target school’s average GPA for accepted students.
2. One that is below your target school’s 75th or 80th percentile.
You can find this info on the school’s class profile online or in some of the b-school rankings.
It’s All Relative
Both of these definitions require you to look at your numbers relative to those of the schools that you are targeting. So if you have a 3.2 and the average GPA of the entering class is a 3.2, you do not have a low GPA. However, if you have a 3.2 and the school you are aiming for has an average GPA for accepted students of 3.6, then all of a sudden your average 3.2 GPA transforms into a low 3.2 GPA.
Putting it in Perspective: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Did you have a hard time adjusting to college so your GPA took a hit your freshman year, but improved the following year, and then every year after that? Did you end up recovering from that first clueless year by landing on the Dean’s List for the last two years and having a 4.0 GPA the last year?
2. Did an illness in the family or other circumstance beyond your control cause a drop in your grades for a specific period of time, thereby dragging down an otherwise tip-top GPA?
3. Did you declare the wrong major and have poor grades in that major until you realized your true calling, at which point you started to excel?
4. Were you working part-time to support yourself or did you have a major sports commitment in order to qualify for an athletic scholarship that you needed to maintain in order to stay in school?
5. Did your GPA have a downward trend, starting out strong in your first year, and then declining as you lost your motivation throughout the following years?
These questions present several causes that could explain a low GPA in order of difficulty in overcoming them (easiest to hardest). The degree of severity of your case will influence how much effort you need to put in to mitigating the situation.
Stay tuned for our next post, Addressing Your Low GPA.