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Low Undergrad GPA Success Stories [#permalink]
22 Jun 2009, 08:20
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Being that there are a lot of threads addressing how to overcome a low GPA, here is a thread for success stories only. Please share the following:
1) Your undergrad GPA (you might also add major, type of school, progression, country, etc if you wish) 2) Dings you got (as well as any other factors besides a low GPA that might have come into play) 3) Schools you got admitted at
I know there are quite a few of us with a similar issue to overcome, so I thought it might be useful to organize what we know in one thread. Cmon on guys, give us some hope
Hi everyone -- long time listener, first time poster! I have been silently absorbing all the great info on this forum throughout my process, but this topic really compelled me to register and contribute because low GPA was my #1 hurdle to getting into business school. A quick takeaway from my experience is that this is definitely a hurdle but NOT a barrier if you think strategically and put together an awesome application package.
I attended a small regional school (unranked nationally) where I majored in business no less, and came away with a low 3.01 GPA for a variety of reasons. Namely, my grades in quantitative courses were low and severely effected my overall GPA. I never admitted to my interest in graduate school because I didn't want to face my GPA and the application process. Finally, last year took the GMAT (700 score on the first try) and applied to business school in exasperation with my current job situation and prospects. Bad idea. I applied to Stanford (don't know why), Stern, and Kellogg. I was rejected from every single one which didn't surprise even me.
This year, I took a totally fresh approach. I researched schools extremely thoroughly and more importantly, spent a lot of time understanding my own strengths, weaknesses, career goals and future plans. I spoke with no less than two dozen people in various fields I was interested in until I had complete clarity into the right career path for myself and an understanding of how bschool fit into that journey. I knew that my story would be the key, so I spent months constantly working on essays to craft the best story possible. I chose only 2 trusted people to review my work over time until we all agreed what I had was near perfect. I always made sure though that no matter what edits were suggested, that the voice and content of the essays was 100% true to me. Also, I made it a point to apply as early as possible which I think helped tremendously.
In crafting my story, I also realized that my current work experience over 5 years is pretty kick ass compared to what a lot of other folks my age have been doing. I have taken on lots of leadership roles and driven tangible results for my company. So I spent an equal amount of time on my resume and created custom versions for each school based on what each tends to look for (based on many conversations with current students and alumni). I highlighted creative marketing projects more prominently on my Kellogg resume, while analytical and leadership projects reigned supreme on my Wharton resume.
Finally, I broke down what a poor GPA means to a school. It means that they're not sure of your general cognitive ability or capacity to succeed in courses and the impact you could have on fellow students. To combat this, I strategically chose two recommenders and asked them to heavily emphasize cognitive abilities to help correct the negative perception my GPA brings about. I took two finance courses, one online course offered by UC Berkeley and one at a local university. I worked very hard to get A's in these classes since I knew a B would really not help reverse negative perceptions. I also wrote the optional essay each school offers to explain a bit about my undergrad experience. I never made excuses but I explained some of the situation and how I know I didn't live up to my academic potential but wish to change that moving forward.
Last, I put it all together - strong resume, crystal clear essays, impressive recs (I hope, I didn't see them), supporting course work, strong EC's, and weak GPA.
Result? I got interviews from every school I applied to and ZERO rejections. In fact, I recently accepted a place with Wharton's class of 2013, one of the toughest evaluators of test scores, GPAs and analytical abilities. I hope this story will show you that an application can be more than the sum of its parts with a little strategic thinking, lots of advance planning time and determination.
Thought I'd write my story here and the other low GPA thread since I read through all of the low GPA threads a bunch of times when applying because I was so nervous about my chances. Hopefully I will give another low GPA-er some hope!
Profile: Age/gender: 28 y/o female GPA: 2.9 from a top 10 liberal arts school, economics major GMAT: 700 and 690 (yes did worse the second time), don't remember my split but my quant was nowhere near that 80% everyone says to get. WE: 3 years in a rotational program for a well known financial services firm, 3 years in risk at a global investment bank Extracurriculars: Captain of sports team in college, consistent volunteering since college (some leadership positions and unique stuff), very involved with former college, and have a lot of hobbies I mentioned in my apps to sort of differentiate myself.
Schools I applied to and results (all Rnd 1 or Regular Decision):
Wharton: Waitlisted (after a terrible interview mind you, Team Discussion was great, but interview, yikes) Kellogg: Waitlisted Columbia: Accepted Fuqua: Accepted Stern: Accepted
I think the following helped my case:
1. A clear idea/and description in my apps of my career goals, why an MBA would help them, why that specific school's MBA would help them, why now was the time I was pursuing MBA, and how my prior work experience would help me achieve those goals. I had heard that schools worry career changers won't find jobs if it is too great of a change, so I highlighted aspects/stories of my work experience that directly applies to my goals. I also made sure to show why I was passionate about my goals and what had led me to realize my goals.
2. In addition to tying my work experience to my goals, I tried to give examples of leadership at work. I told a couple of stories that demonstrated me taking initiative and leading teams. I also told my recommenders that schools like that so if they had any stories to put in their recommendations that would be great. Don't know what my recommenders ended up writing, but I did send them both an email with what my goals are and some of my professional and personal accomplishments.
3. Once you start doing in depth research on a school and its programs, it is pretty easy to figure out what is important to that school (what type of candidate they are looking for). So in each of my essays, I made sure to pick examples and tailor my message to that specific school's values.
4. I took two classes in the summer before I applied, 1 accounting class and 1 math class (not calculus level) to show that I have quant skills and can be a good student, got A's in both courses. Was told specifically by one of the schools that they really liked that I took the initiative to take those courses.
5. I visited every school I applied to. Luckily for me this was easy and the only two schools I really had to fly to were Duke and Kellogg which meant I could self-initiate an interview while I was there. Just felt like this showed my interest but more importantly allowed me to speak of my visit in my application.
6. In general I just really tried to show that I was ready to fully engage in the program and the school's community. Also tried to show a coherent story as to how my career goals were formed, how MBA would help achieve them, and what I hoped to do in the short term and long term.
7. Just a note about the optional essay since I wondered about this. I chose note to come right out and say "I have a low GPA because...". Instead I chose to use the essay to highlight the two courses I took in an effort to prepare myself for the rigors or the MBA program and since I had been out of school for awhile.
Hope that is helpful to someone! Nothing earth shattering above, but there are so many things to keep in mind and think about in this whole process it's easy to just get stuck on your low gpa or gmat and think that means you're not a strong candidate. Especially looking on this board, it's amazing how many people have such strong stats. But you never know, you see people with 750 GMATs and 3.8 GPAs get rejected from top schools all the time while someone with much lower stats gets in. To me, that really shows that the adcoms really do take a look at the holistic picture. Good luck!
For anybody applying with a drastically low GPA, I can probably sympathize. Mine's is a long story of failure -> redemption and I'd like to share it with anyone who's interested in hearing about it. Here are my answers to the questions:
1) 2.6 GPA at top 25 public school (was on academic probation during senior year, no less). Basically completely lost my focus in school and went down the wrong path, hitting rock bottom. Had a dramatic revelation followed by personal transformation shortly afterward, part of which included attaining a top MBA as a long-term goal.
2) 7 years later, applied in FY 2008 (shot too high and dinged at all schools applied). For FY 2009- dings at Duke, Darden, Cornell, Kellogg.
3) I was R1 W/L at one of Yale-Tuck- Ross (won't say which, but really wanted to go there). After sending in pertinent waitlist update, I was accepted at start of R2 Matriculating for Fall of 2009.
Net results: Applied to 11 schools over 2 year span, dinged at 10, waitlisted at one, and accepted shortly thereafter.
Ultimately, I was able to make up for my low GPA but it was still an uphill battle because of it. Based on my own experiences, I do believe that all things are possible with the right frame of mind and some divine assistance as well.
PM me if you want more information on how I overcame the GPA issue.
My story is different than most others here..... and please don't take my advice, I think I got lucky
29 year old Asian (born in US, grew up in New Zealand) living in LA
UG GPA (Operations Management/Statistics): around 2.6 to 2.7 (got better as the years went on), NZ uses a different scale, so not exactly sure MSc GPA (Statistics): low 3s GMAT: 700 WE: 5 years, biggest video game publisher, biggest entertainment/media company (in Video game division)
Applied to: Duke - R2, invited to interview, accepted MIT - R2, waitlist, ding UCLA - R3, interviewed, withdrew
I wished I had applied to more schools, I studied for around 2 weeks and took the GMAT in Dec thinking I would need to retake anyway, turned out ok, didn't want to study again for a higher score (new born son to look after ) So I ended up with 2 weeks to write essays, again thought I would get dinged anyway so I didn't want to rush and apply to a lot of schools since writing the additional essay about how you have improved and not to mention new topics scared me.... So I only applied to two schools I really wanted to go to. Didn't like my chances because of the following: 1) Didn't visit any schools nor attend any info sessions/lunch sessions/online chat, etc... 2) Low GPA, it got better as the years went on though (I failed like 4 papers in the first year... Diablo 2...) 3) No writing skills... no english related classes since form 6 in high school (2nd to last year) 4) Didn't have anyone to proof read my essays since I had such a short time frame 5) absolute zero community/extra-curricular activities though Under and Post Grad. (Video Games/Cars/Gambling was my life) 6) GMAT was ok... not excellent especially compared to most of people here.
Not saying my results were a huge success by most peoples standards here.. but here are what I think worked for me 1) I explained about my GPA - I played video games, as simple as that, I logged 600 real life days on Final Fantasy XI MMO during the last 10 years. Other people like doing community work, clubs, etc. I just like Video Games and Modifying cars. 2) My other essays were focused on things I really enjoy - Games and Fast cars and a little about family I wrote about being one of the only 10 people in the FFXI server that has this sword which can only drop from a monster that comes out in game once every 3 real life days and the drop rate is around 10% if you do claim and kill the monster, then you have to win the dice roll for it against your team members... you do the math. 3) My recommenders were awesome, both have had their MBAs and have known me a long time and writes well 4) My essays were not proof read by anyone, I think that helped me.... it probably reads different than some really refined essays, I wrote more like how I speak in real life. 5) Maybe the Company I worked at are well know and that helps (not really sure about this one) 6) I wasn't really sure about putting down around 5 extra-curricular activities that were all things like FFXI guild leader, WOW guild member, Car clubs, but guess it didn't hurt me... better than blanks I guess 7) All the papers I failed, I had DNS (did not sit, which means I didn't even go to the exams, and all those papers I later got A's or high B's on, but yeah DNS really hurt my GPA). I guess this is a good sign? shows I can do the work, just that school wasn't most important, getting my Windforce in Diablo 2 was more important .. for all the Diablo players out there
So yeah, I hope anyone that reads this won't be put off trying to go to schools they dream about, it is very easy to do that if you read these forums a lot.... I would recommend writing the real you, show passion, and just try to show who you are.
Sometimes I think about applying to more schools this year since I will have more time to study GMAT, visit schools, network, etc. But what the hell, Duke is awesome, I was born there (left when I was 1 though) and I just don't want/have the time to study and write more essays... I have boxes of games I need to finish and a son to look after.
Best of luck to everyone applying
Last edited by lulumocha on 26 May 2011, 09:32, edited 1 time in total.
I got a 2.8 GPA undergrad. I had a rough freshman year (I failed a high level calculus class 2nd semester) as I never learned a good work ethic. I was temporarily suspended from school (a good state school), but then came back and got on dean's list my first semester back. Unfortunately, I got lazy by the end and got just under a 3.0 my last semester in college.
My effort at work is completely different from that of my undergraduate career. I've worked for 4 years in Corp Finance at a media company and have been given an incredible amount of responsibility. Also, luckily, I scored a 750 on my GMAT (even though it took 3 times of taking it). I ended up applying to HBS (not sure why), Tuck, Darden, Fuqua, and McCombs. I was accepted at McCombs (with a bunch of money) and was waitlisted at Tuck, Darden, and Fuqua. I was recently accepted off the waitlist at Darden where I'll be matriculating.
I can offer the following advice for people with a low GPA. First, don't assume that it counts you out. I know I was waitlisted at the above schools due to my GPA (Tuck told me this), but if there's something else you can offer the school, they'll be willing to admit you. For me, I think it was my work experience, as it was very unique and my recommendations were very strong. Also, I genuinely enjoy interviewing, so I think that helped.
Also, try to find any sort of connections you have and ask for advice and ask if they can write a letter of support, it never hurts. If you're on the waitlist, don't be annoying, but try to keep a constant dialogue with the schools and give them a reason to admit you. Make it seem that it's their loss if they don't admit you. Lastly, don't give up. Getting in to school was really really hard (especially due to my GPA), but it's all worth it as I really loved Darden when I visited.
That's my story. Feel free to PM me if you have any other questions.
I'm here to tell a story. A story about hard work and luck, but mostly luck. There's hope.
University: University of Southern California Major(s): Mechanical Engineering GPA: 2.88 GMAT: 770 (99%), Q:50 (93%), V:44 (97%), AWA:4.5 (37%) Nationality: US, Caucasian Age: 29 Gender: M
Application Results: R3 - Fuqua - Dinged without interview R3 - Ross - Accepted R3 - Booth - Matriculated after being waitlisted R3 - Kellogg - Withdrew from WL upon acceptance from Booth
My GPA was terrible, I applied in R3, and I certainly didn't have anything to offer in terms of demographic diversity. My GMAT obviously helped a ton and having significant work experience help distance me from my grades. Beyond that, my essays were solid and I very deliberately addressed my shortcomings. I took a risk for my 2nd rec by having a classmate from an executive education program I completed write about my contributions in an academic setting and devoted my optional essay to addressing my GPA and reasons for applying R3.
1. Undergrad GPA of 3.1, GPA in majors 3.7/3.8 2. Dinged at HBS (w/o interview), Columbia (w/ interview), MIT (w/o interview), Wharton (interview, WL, then ding) 3. Accepted at Booth, Kellogg, Duke, Tuck
1. Something like a 3.0 at a public ivy 2. Dinged at Stanford and Yale 3. Accepted at Virginia (w/scholarship), Duke (same), Texas, UNC ($$$). Matriculating at Fuqua.
I feel like I had one kinda legit reason for the low GPA - I transferred schools after my first year, and my next school didn't count my first year GPA into my cumulative. I had a very successful first year and then took the two weed out courses for my major (Econ) in my first semester at the second school, so that hurt my average a lot, though I did better afterward.
All I did was write a little four-sentence blurb about this in the "any additional info" box on all my apps. Other than that, I didn't address it at all. My impression is that the more attention you draw to it, the more they'll think about it. The last thing you wanna do is come across as the little go-getter who's stressed out about how his/her UG GPA looks to B-schools - just concentrate on what you've done since then, and let that work speak for itself.
Great thread. Had an unusual undergrad history myself. I'm one of those candidates that had to answer both the "Have you ever been on academic probation?" and "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" questions
It took me 3 undergrad schools to graduate from college. (Withdrew from first school after a year, took non-degree classes at another while I tried to get back on track, and finally graduated from the 3rd.) Bizarre transcripts to say the least. While I was an excellent drinker and partier, these apparently are not officially recognized extracurricular activites in college Add in a run-in with the law in my early 20's after college - I've got a "colorful" past. GPA was technically a 3.3ish, but my transcripts oscillate between good grades and then periods of poor grades, incompletes and withdrawals. I was a bit of a mess back then.
GMAT: 720 Rejected: Last Year (2009-2010) - Kellogg, Booth, Yale This Year: MIT Accepted: Last Year - Nobody! This Year: Ross, UNC, Emory, GT, waiting on one more
Utilized the additional essay to briefly own up to my past transgressions and reflect how they've increased my desire to attend bschool and pursue my current career goals.
As a fellow low GPA-er, this post has been incredibly inspiring! Hopefully, after I submit applications this fall/winter, I will have a success story to contribute.
Since so many of you are total success stories, I was wondering if you could give me some advice so I can look more appealing to the admissions committees when I apply.
I am a 31 year old female. I took the GMAT last month and scored a dismal 620 (V34 Q41 AWA6.0). I am currently in the process of studying my butt off so I can retest and hopefully break the 700 mark. I went to a UC, majored in Art History, and my overall undergrad GPA was 2.91. I struggled immensely my first two years of undergrad, but kicked things into gear the last two years and got a GPA of 3.76 (Dean's Honor list several times, GPA ranging from 3.49 to 4.0). I'm hoping that the adcoms will look at the overall improving trend in my GPA and put less emphasis on my overall GPA (which I will most definitely explain in an extra essay).
I would love to go to Fuqua or CBS, but I feel that those two schools are out of my league. Even Tepper would be a dream come true. However, I have my sights set on Marshall - USC since it is local to me, and I don't feel that going to school out of state is appropriate for me at this moment given personal circumstances. (Without going too much into detail, my father passed away suddenly 3 months ago, and I don't feel comfortable leaving my mother--who is still very depressed--by herself just yet).
I know that having an alternative transcript will help to boast my application and possibly put less emphasis on my undergraduate GPA. Online programs would be preferable, and I heard both Berkeley Extension and Thunderbird offer good courses to supplement my application. I'm thinking that taking a course or two this summer online could help for when I apply this fall/winter. What online programs and courses would be the most advisable to take? Keep in mind that I am an Art History major. I did take Calculus and Statistics and did well, but have no real educational experience in subjects like, Marketing, Finance, Accounting, etc (I can write a mean essay, though!)
Thank you so much for your help
You sound a lot like me. I'm a 31 year old female with a low GPA (although I'm a 2.7 with a downward trend). You wouldn't be matriculating til Fall 2013 so I wouldn't refrain from applying to your dream schools because of immediate circumstances. A lot can change in a year.
Now as for making yourself more appealing to an admissions committee, you already know that the GMAT is going to be critical for you. I've seen people have 100+ point jumps on their retakes so study hard. I am sure you'll kill it now that the nerves are out of the way. You can take a couple of supplemental courses, however if you've already done well in stats and econ I don't know how much it will add. Plus you had an upward trend and did really well your final two years. The optional essay is definitely your friend. Use it. While I wouldn't say that a high GMAT completely offsets a low GPA (they really do measure two different things), I think that your GPA trajectory definitely shows that you can handle the coursework and that you're willing to put forth the effort to get good grades. I don't know when you plan to retake the GMAT or in what round you're going to apply but I do know that taking a course is a big time commitment. I would carefully assess whether doing so is the best use of your time between now and app deadlines. While it never hurts, the ROI may not be as high as you think. I ultimately decided not to take a class and focused on other aspects of my application.
In my opinion your resume and career goals essay are going to make or break your application. Being older you're in this tricky spot where you are expected to have a good amount of career progression but not so much to make you seem more suited to a PT or E-MBA. It's definitely a tough balancing act. What company you work for and your role there will definitely matter a lot. I would focus a lot of your time on recommender prep. Other than that, do a good job of communicating your goals, leadership experiences, and self-awareness and I don't see why you wouldn't have a shot at Fuqua, CBS, or Tepper. May not be a slam dunk, but you'd give yourself a fighting chance. _________________
1. 3.17, Finance, Large State-School, (Two Fs on transcript) 2. Dinged at Booth and UCLA (Anderson) 3. Accepted at Texas and Matriculating at Kellogg
A low GPA can certainly be overcome. Remember, this isn't Yale Law School or Harvard Med School where one B will kill you.
3.17, that doesn't count as low GPA.
Success stories would be more like zoinnk -Wharton (Mat)/ H (admit), sonibubu - Chicago (Mat)/Kellogg (admit) and sleepy - Georgetown (Mat). There is a low GPA success thread but I'm too lazy to find it. (that's probably why I have low GPA) _________________
Toubab, I agree that drawing too much attention to your GPA is not necessarily the best idea, but that only works if your GPA is around 3.0. That in my books is not that low. Anything say 2.5 and below would probably be a sore spot to overcome and would definitely need to be addressed in a more thorough manner.
You guys should stat your GMAT score. I'm sure the guys with a low GPA had very high GMATs?
Most people have their GMAT score in the profile information listed to the left of their posts, and it looks like all the posters here have 700+. In general, a low GPA + below average (for the school you're applying to) GMAT is going to make it much harder to convince the adcom you're academically capable of handling their program. So it's no surprise that the people who have succeeded with low GPA have higher GMAT scores. _________________