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Journey to my MBA

Monday, March 20, 2006

Dealing with a low gpa

I've received quite a few e-mails on this posting. I've posted a general response.

Recently you ran a GMAT marathon thingy where people posted how they got into business school despite a bad GMAT. Maybe you can run a GPA marathon as well where people can post strategies to overcome a low gpa. It'd be mighty helpful.

Dave's response:

When I compile enough info on GPA info, I'll post it. For now, here's my perspective on addressing the gpa in applications. A GPA of 3.1 or lower is of concern so you'll need to explain it. You'll need to clearly express why you need the MBA and how you have a trail of activities that make it clear that a good school should partner with you as you continue to achieve your career goals. Show that you accept responsibility for your actions and show by the story of your life in your other essays that you have moved on. Perhaps you could take classes in accounting, business concepts, math or show higher degree type of classes with good grades. This certainly helps, but don't kill yourself doing it.

A GMAT score of 650 or lower could definitely benefit from the strategy I mentioned above, but it's a very small piece of the application presentation pie. The goal of your essays is to get noticed for the great candidate that you are. Then the admission committee's spend time looking closer by noticing your work ethic and achievements like the extra classes. In other words, don't make the mistake of spending 40 hours of class and study time only to suffer and end up putting a mere 20 hours of time into your essays. If your essays or GMAT prep are suffering for any reason due to the classes or extra work at your daytime job... then don't hesitate to drop the class. Say you took the class at Bart Simpson School. You don't have to report your grades from classes you dropped... even if you get a negative mark for withdrawing beyond the drop date as defined by that schools policies. This is because the class was not directly related to your undergraduate or graduate degree. This is just being strategic. Using all the resources you can to legitimately and ethically leverage your best application package while sustaining a focus on the application task priorities is perfectly reasonable. By the way, classes don't have to be taken at top schools.

Just be honest about why you didn't have the focus during the time you went to school. The truth of the matter is that a low gpa shows a lack of maturity, focus and discipline. The admissions committee wants to know if you have grown out of it and if it was just a stage that can be easily overlooked. If you don't do well, and admission committee member XYZ said "yes" to you and you don't do well academically while in school then it becomes a problem not just for the school, but for the committee member(s) who said "yes" to you. Why? Because when they said "yes" to you, they were putting their credibility on the line.

Overall, your shooting to craft an application message that clearly shows your maturity!

You'll need to be careful about how much you talk about the low gpa and focused on creatively describing the maturity and focus you have now. Your interviews and especially your letter of recommendations NEED to show this this as well. Just having good letters of recomendation won't cut it for you. You need to make sure that they clearly protray how well you can handle things and how you are focused, reliable and highly motivated.

Focus on these low gpa management techniques and you'll be able to put your best application package forward. Writing a long 200 word explanation of why you didn't focus in college is probably too much time spent on this topic. Put another way, spending too much time on the low gpa topic will slant the bigger message of your essays such that you may show how you live with excessive fear and perhaps struggle with an inability to move on from one's mistakes. In any case, I hope you get my point. Balance, Balance, Balance.

Best wishes.



Blogger Marina said...

My $.02 on the topic:

I have a 3.1 from a state school (UCSB), did not explain it on the application and am in at CBS. Though I did fill out all the jobs I had while I was in school so maybe they figured that was part of the interference. Also, my GPA started out as a 3.7 my freshman year and spiraled in a downtrend through the 4 years. I did manage to graduate a quarter early by taking a full load and summer school every year.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Dave for MBA said...

Awesome comment Marina. This is a much needed comment to help create a full picture of this issue. I would add that your GMAT score would probably be important to know in assessing the impact of your GPA, what school you were at and classes you might have taken since you graduated.

I say this because a high GMAT score nullifies a lot of low gpa's the longer you've been out of school. Secondly, the school you graduated from has a big impact on your gpa valuations. For example, it is my understanding that students who received their undergraduate degrees from Ivy leagues automatically get a .2 to .4 bump in their overall gpa's when being assessed in comparison to other students.

I might add that race and what sex you are also plays a factor in this. Statistically, women tend to have lower stats than men as a whole on a per school basis. I say this lightly as there are some exceptions.

For the most part, I didn't want to get into all the exceptions and caviates when I wrote my original entry.

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny thing is, I constantly hear about grade inflation at Ivy schools. And then adcomm add a quater of a point to that, how's that benig fair?

11:23 AM  
Blogger Dave for MBA said...

Tragically, this is evidence of the socio-economic layers in our US society. The rich can send their children to private schools where they receive an incredible education. One private High School in San Jose, California for example two years ago had 117 graduating seniors. 105 of them received perfect SAT scores. This is one of the best schools on the west coast. Many of these students had strong candidancy for Ivy League colleges or other colleges of their choice.

Over the last several years, the more I learn about our top 20 MBA US Schools and the people that go through them, the more I see the bitter reality of how a great education seperates people. God bless those who studied hard and had great intelligence genes and achieved great academic success regardless of their financial upbringings. More often than not however, those with money have a clear advantage in getting into top MBA Schools.

I haven't really heard mention of this hard reality of our society in my fellow Blogger postings or mainstream media that focus on Business Schools. I rather think it's an understood issue by most trying to get into a top school.

Having said this though, I clap for schools like Wharton, Ross, Kellogg, Tuck, and Johnson who have a reputation for giving those with less than stellar stats a more wholistic review.

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mention that writing a 200-word essay explaining your low gpa is overkill. Could you explain why? Many schools offer an additional essay specifically to address weaknesses in ones application (such as a low gpa) and usually allows 2-pages. How would you recommend someone use this 'optional' essay to address a low gpa?

8:25 PM  

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