When you are dealing with a numerical outlier like a low GPA, your best bet is to simply pick the school that is the best fit for you (or at least that you believe to be the best fit) and then go about putting together an incredibly convincing case for the reader. At the end of the day, your GPA is creating a steep uphill climb, so trying to figure out where you have the best chance is likely to be misplaced energy. Focus on fit and on showcasing fit - really making that reader think "wow, this person would be amazing here, GPA be damned" is far more important than "gaming" a few tenths of a point here or there. I repeat: far more important. (Also, and perhaps this goes without saying, but maturity, focus, and discipline need to be seminal themes in all of your b-school essays.)
Now, that said, I don't want to blow you off with high and mighty rhetoric about fit. You can still be smart about what you are doing if all of the schools are equally appealing. Some of the things we recommend when strategically selecting a school based on low GPA:
- Location. Certain demographic backgrounds (white U.S. male, Indian male) are far more prominent in major metro areas than in small towns. Sometimes angling for the smaller town can help keep you out of a massive sea of similar applicants. In this case, all of your reach schools are in major markets.
- Size. The bigger the school, the easier it is to fold in your GPA. None of these schools are tiny, but Stern is the smallest, so that actually cuts against you. You might note that Stern is actually very selective and they have slightly narrower ranges for certain stats. Booth is a big school without a huge applicant pool (the reason the acceptance rate is higher), so it can often be a place to find a nook or cranny.
- Average GPA. This is where you have started your search and it is certainly one of the elements. Ross, for instance, is quite low at 3.3, while HBS is very high at 3.7. In your case, Stern is the lowest average GPA. But honestly, this means little.
- Average GMAT. You might also look to see where your strong GMAT would help the most. Does it stand as the average? Above average? Slightly below? If you are above average, it may help a bit. This is probably your best case at Stern, but it's a thin case to make.
- Other thematic factors/career goals/etc. These are unknown in your case.
When you consider the above, we don't know that last point and so we're left to major on the minors. I would probably say Booth at the end of the day, but Stern isn't a bad second bet. Really though, it comes down to where you want to be and how well you can articulate both that passion and also all of the mitigating aspects that will make you a worthy addition to the class.
Good luck to you.
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