Singing the GPA blues

The GPA is the only thing you can’t do anything about in your MBA application.  Are you singing the GPA Blues?

Singing the blues is a bit of an oxymoron.  On the one hand, you are depressed, but on the other hand, you’re singing, so you can’t really be truly depressed.  It’s the same with your GPA.  Getting poor or embarrassing grades in college is regrettable because you can’t go back and change them.  It’s a cold reality that will stare the admissions committees at your target MBA programs square in the face. If you don’t like your GMAT score, you can work hard and take it again.  If you are unhappy with your professional achievements, you can work hard and get a promotion.  But that blasted GPA is hanging over you like, well, a bad hangover.  The reason you can actually sing about it is because it’s not as important as you think.

While the GPA is unchangeable, it is also the most forgivable of all the core application requirements.

Schools know that there is a wide disparity among undergraduate institutions when it comes to handing out grades.  Some schools are known for going easy and others are notoriously difficult.  If you went to a decent school, the adcoms are going to be familiar with that school’s grading history.  It’s actually far better in fact to have gone to a ranked undergraduate institution and suffered some grade slippage than to have gone to a no-name school and done well.  But regardless, the adcoms will always take into consideration that your college experience was the first stop on your higher-ed journey and will take with a grain of salt how well you did or didn’t do there. 

Certainly having good grades can only help, but having poor grades does not necessarily mean doom.

The key to overcoming a bad GPA is in convincing the adcoms in other ways that you possess the academic mettle to hang with a rigorous program.  See if you can demonstrate quantitative acumen through your work experiences.  Certainly your recommenders can vouch for how well you handle complex analysis or calculations in the workplace?  You can also take a continuing education course or two and post a good grade.  Just make sure you send along the transcript when you apply for an MBA program. 

While it’s not a good idea to grovel, explaining a poor performance in college can and should perhaps be outlined in the optional essay.

Even though it’s a forgivable sin, schools will still want to know why you performed poorly so they can ascertain if the behavior was isolated or may be repeated.  One of the best ways to get them to forget all about it is to have a decent amount of post-undergrad work experience under your belt.  The more time that has passed since you made poor grades, the less concerned the adcoms will be.  The good news is, the rankings don’t focus much on average GPA of the incoming class, at least not as much as they do on the average GMAT score. But that is a topic for another day.

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