A low GMAT score or a low GPA is not necessarily an MBA deal breaker. No adcom is going to admit or dismiss a candidate based solely on one semester’s poor GPA or a low verbal GMAT score without also reflecting on other numbers as well as the rest of the non-quantitative parts of the applicant’s profile. Average numbers vary according to school, as well as numbers within your demographic group. You should examine each of these aspects needs and weigh the strengths and weaknesses in your application before you can really start to worry. And once you’re worrying, figure out how to respond to those concerns.
That being said, there are certain numbers that will be significant hurdles. Say, for instance, you have a GPA of 2.9 and your top choice MBA program’s GPA average is 3.5. In such a case, your chances of acceptance have just taken a major hit. If, on the other hand, that same applicant applies to a b-school with a GPA average of 3.2, then he or she may have a chance of acceptance, provided, the rest of the application is solid, or better yet, above average.
Here’s another “it depends” situation: Overrepresented demographics—Indian engineers or investment bankers from over-represented ethnicities—will have a harder time getting into a top MBA program than a corporate finance executive from an under-represented background with the same stats. In such a case, a GMAT score in the lower part of the school’s 80% range and a GPA of 3.3 may be just too low for one person and just high enough for another.
The point is, you need to examine the details of your scores and reflect on them in the context of a bigger picture. Ask yourself these questions:
• Is one score low, but balanced out by other higher numbers? Can you provide other evidence of academic ability?
• Did your overall GPA improve as you matured through the college experience?
• Do you have flawlessly-written, compelling essays that prove your strong writing and communication skills despite a somewhat lower-than-average GMAT verbal score?
• Do you offer specific examples and anecdotes in your essays that highlight your quantitative skills, even though your GMAT quant scores weren’t as high as you’d like?
• Do your recommenders vouch for your abilities—especially ones that the numbers don’t reveal?
• Have you chosen schools that will view your scores as competitive?
• Have you taken additional college courses in an attempt to boost your quant or verbal capabilities?
• Have you written the optional essay to further boost your competitive edge?
You need to assess and interpret how you’ll be perceived with such scores and numbers, and then develop an application strategy to address those issues.