I have been accepted into a couple of programs for 2010, and I just wanted to share my experiences getting to this point. Specifically, I want to give back to the forums here and address the low GPA issue I had to face personally in my MBA applications. I hope my story can be both helpful and inspirational to everyone here.
It was less than a year ago when I was eagerly researching these forums myself, trying to assess my chances for an MBA. I still vividly remember the euphoria of scoring a 760 on my GMAT, and then falling back down to earth when faced with the reality that I had about a 1.9 GPA, out of a scale of 4. That is about the lowest GPA I’ve ever seen or heard of accepted into any MBA program anywhere, and it certainly was far lower than anything I’ve seen on the forums.
I still remember reading posts on forums by some guys who were worried that they have a below 3 GPA, but there was literally no information anywhere on the web about anyone with a really horrendously low GPA like mine. Now how did I manage to get such a low GPA? Well I was 15 when I was accepted into university on a full scholarship, since I did extremely well in high school. However, I just decided to not do any work at all during university, since I already had a full scholarship and I didn’t feel like I cared enough about school/classes to study. To me, the materials they were teaching weren’t interesting at all, and so during my undergrad years, I just completely ignored the studying and did just enough to pass without going on academic probation. So now, during my applications, while I felt confident in my work experience and GMAT score, I felt my GPA could potentially seal my fate and keep me from getting into the competitive programs.
I’ve been through this whole grad school application thing before. A few years ago, while I was still fresh out of undergrad, I took the LSAT, scored very high on it, and applied for law school. Thankfully, I didn’t get into most programs except some tier 2 & 3 schools that I had no real interest in going. However, this was when I first felt the pain of my low GPA, as I would’ve been a likely candidate for top 10 programs with a higher GPA. Looking back of course, it’s great that I didn’t go to law school, as I am much happier in business.
Yet, given my previous experiences, when it came to MBA apps, I was still pretty skeptical about my GPA issue. I knew that MBA adcoms weighed work experience and GMAT a lot more than undergrad GPA, and while that made my application more competitive, I also knew that this was pretty much my last good chance of getting a graduate degree from a good program (given my career progression so far, I would’ve been happy to just continue with my progress at my current job if I didn’t get into an MBA this year…so this was really pretty much it for me – get into an MBA in 2010 or take a promotion in my current job and stick with my company).
After talking to various admissions consultants, I got mixed reviews. A lot of them said I had no chance at top programs, but some said that my profile was interesting enough that I’d be competitive at the non-H/S/W schools. This was encouraging, so I gave it my shot and applied to a group of top programs, both US and international. I worked very hard on polishing my essays and really dissecting my case to the adcoms to show them that I am now ready for an MBA. I tried hard to prove that my undergrad was not a true reflection of my potential or my aptitude, and that really, I’m capable of much more, as shown in my work progression and test scores.
It definitely helped that I had a solid case other than my GPA. I was promoted at work last year and was a key driver to help turn around the profitability of our business. I was offered another promotion recently, on the condition that I put my MBA plans aside for a couple of yrs, which I turned down. I also have a good GMAT, as well as a reasonable/plausible excuse for a terrible undergraduate GPA (I mean, after all, 15 is YOUNG). I also have a clearly defined career path and career goals, which makes the MBA a necessary step along the way. So in my essays, I tried my best to throw all that info together and sell myself in the best light I could.
In the end, it has worked out really well for me. I now have 2 offers from excellent programs, and while I have been denied at some schools, I’m happy to be in the situation I am in now. When I started my applications, I told myself that 1 acceptance is all I need to change my life and push myself forward. So while I would’ve liked to get into an ultra-elite program such as Wharton, I’m more than happy to have offers from Oxford and INSEAD. Given my international background and my work experience overseas, I really believe these two programs are much better suited for my career than the top US programs (with the exception of Wharton).
Now, I’d like to share my story with everyone else here that might have a slight weakness or short fall in their application, and I’ll say this: don’t give up and don’t sell yourself short. Aim for the stars and give it your best shot, and remember, all you need is 1 acceptance letter to really change your life. I’m pretty sure I have one of the ABSOLUTE WORST GPA’s out of anyone applying to business schools anywhere, but yet, I still made it into some pretty decent programs. You can all do the same, whatever the shortcomings of your profiles might be. Just try to think of it this way, what’s done is done, and can’t be changed, but what you can do is focus on the other aspects of your application and improving yourself, whether it’s work experience, GMAT, interview skills, essay writing, getting a professional designation, or taking a few part time courses to address your GPA. By focusing on things you can control, you’ll give yourself the best possible opportunity to get into a program that’ll be suitable for you, and you’ll be surprised by the results of your efforts.
Here’s to all the future applicants – good luck!
(Admin - please feel free to move this to the most suitable forum. I just posted it here because I felt the readers here will benefit the most from my story.)
Oxford Round 1 - interview invite 10/30/09, admit 12/11/09, ATTENDING 2010
My Road to Oxford and INSEAD http://gmatclub.com/forum/my-road-to-oxford-sbs-and-insead-89413.html#p676253