Many candidates write to me worried about their undergraduate GPAs and ask, “Do you think my GPA is too low?”
There is no stock answer to this question. Certainly, stats about each business school’s average GPA for matriculating students can help you gain a sense of your chances for admission. But beyond this, specifics matter a great deal. For example:
Where did you attend college? If your school was a top-ranked college in its country, your GPA likely can be lower than the GPA of a candidate who attended a much lower-ranked college.
What was your major? Some majors are known to be very difficult, and so what might look like a low GPA in a much “softer” major may be perceived by the admissions committee as a relatively high GPA for your major. (If your major was known for its academic rigor, you should point that out in your essays and recommendations.)
What is your gender? Sorry guys – gals do sometimes have an easier time because, for many business schools, fewer women apply. As a result, women sometimes receive a little more leeway on their GPA.
Did you participate in a varsity-level sport in college? If so, most admissions committees will realize that you were diverting a lot of time to the sport, and they might cut you a little slack on your GPA. Representing a school in a varsity-level sport is generally seen as very admirable and an indication of multifaceted talent.
Many MBA candidates might be hopeful that this same reasoning applies to other types of extracurricular activities, yet on the whole it does not. For most other types of extracurricular activities, the committee will feel you had more control over how much time you devoted and won’t see your choice to spend time on extracurricular activities rather than on your studies as a good enough reason for a lower GPA.
Did you have to work your way through school financially? That can matter, because the committee will realize you were juggling work with your academics and may be more understanding if your GPA is slightly lower.
Other factors beyond these also affect the GPA assessment. If you are concerned about your GPA, try to evaluate how these and other mitigating factors might affect the way admission committees will view your GPA. These simple methods can help you understand whether your GPA will be seen as a strength or weakness of your MBA application.
Dr. Shel (Shelly Watts)