Whether or not your GPA could be considered “low” depends on the target school, but approximately 80% of accepted MBA applicants have GPA’s of 3.0 or more.
Business schools know that your GPA is only a partial measure of your abilities as a business student and as a business professional. But too many students make the mistake of thinking that they can “bury” a bad GPA by putting together an otherwise stellar application.
Admission officials will notice, and failing to address an obvious transcript issue or a low GPA shows a lack of awareness and flawed presentation skills.
Of course, the first thing to remember is that a 3.5 from a biology major at a top 20 school will be viewed more favorably than a 3.5 from a student studying in a less rigorous environment.
Schools will look at the subjects in which the student most struggled. A student with low grades in math and economics subjects faces a bigger obstacle than a student with low grades in history. For those that have the time, extra classes in math and business-related subjects can help boost a weak application.
The most important thing to remember is to put your low GPA into context. Your business school application should tell your story in the form of transcripts, essays, work experience, and interviews. Those with a low GPA should incorporate them into their story.
If your undergraduate education was interrupted by a major personal issue like a health problem or a death in the family, that is something that your essay will give you to explain. For some students, their low GPAs are a consequence of a high level of extracurriculars. These students can acknowledge their low GPA and take the opportunity to discuss the valuable skills they gained while participating in these extracurriculars.
For students with low GPAs, the GMAT exam is particularly valuable. A high GMAT score indicates that the student is both academically capable and invested in the application process.
Low GPAs cannot and should not go completely unmentioned. But by putting the GPA into context, applicants can mitigate the damage and even strengthen their MBA application by demonstrating other skills valuable to business schools. And remember that while strong essays and interviews can compensate for weak numbers, strong numbers can’t compensate for weak interviews and essays.