The Alternative Transcript

So you’re the one who went to a third-tier undergraduate institution, had a little too much fun in college, and ended up with a rather embarrassing GPA.  Now it’s time to think about b-school, but is it even possible to get a fair shake in the application process?

Falling short of excellence in college is the single most haunting element of b-school applicants, and for good reason—schools must be convinced you will be able to hang with the challenging pace and rigor of an MBA program. MBA hopefuls spend many a restless night vexing over past sins in undergraduate school, so much so in fact, that it often deters them from even applying.

Before you abandon your MBA dream altogether or settle for a second or third-tier school, you may want to do a few things to potentially overcome your missteps. 

While it may not be an appealing option, you can actually move the ball forward with what’s called an alternative transcript.  This simply means going back to school part time and taking rigorous classes to demonstrate that your aptitude was not properly captured in your undergraduate grades. Obviously you must do well in the new classes—i.e., make A’s.  The reason A’s are important is because you won’t be carrying a full load, so anything less may imply you would be challenged under a heavier academic schedule (e.g. b-school). 

Which classes should you take?

While most b-schools have actually dropped the calculus requirement, taking calculus is often a good choice, because it demonstrates a high level of quantitative ability.  Proving your quant skills is generally more important than your verbal skills for most b-schools, so it won’t help to take an Elizabethan Literature or American Poetry class.  Other courses which are good to take would be anything of a quant nature that you did poorly in in college specifically.  If you made a “C” in statistics, for example, re-taking it now and getting an “A” could wipe out any concerns. Another good approach is to take courses which will help you prepare for coursework in an MBA program.  This would include courses like Accounting, Finance, or Economics.  This is particularly helpful for those who have been out of college for a minute. 

Don’t expect schools to give you actual credit for these classes.

Even though you may be taking graduate-level courses at an accredited university to build your alternative transcript, adcoms will only give you theoretical credit in the admissions process, not actual credit in their program if admitted.  MBA programs are rigid in their class requirements and do not allow transfer credits of any kind as a general rule.  Beefing up your profile is valuable enough, and the added bonus is that you will be far better prepared for two years of MBA studies than you would have been otherwise.  One final tip: it doesn’t really matter where you take your courses when building an alternative transcript, so feel free to enroll in your local community college if that’s what is most convenient.  Simply making the effort and doing well will go a long way in proving both your intellectual potential as well as how serious you are about business school.

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