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Uphill Battle to Top MBA (Poor GPA)

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Uphill Battle to Top MBA (Poor GPA) [#permalink] New post 17 Jun 2012, 23:18
I'm in a fairly sticky situation, the extent to which is becoming increasingly clear as I navigate through this forum (and other similar resources). To get down to it, I had a 2.74 GPA (2.1 GPA freshman and sophomore year, 3.15 thereafter) and graduated with a BA in Political Science from a top northeast public university. Upon graduation I was given a grant (shocking, I know) to study for a masters in a non-business field (MSW). After one semester (3.68 GPA) I withdrew and began pursuing accounting. After a semester of prerequisites (3.84 GPA including statistics) and 2 years of graduate study (3.28 GPA), I earned my MS in Accounting (AACSB accredited) and accepted a Big 4 audit position in a major city (late summer 2011). Since accepting my position I have completed CPA and will be licensed later this summer. I am performing very well in my position, which is reflected in my evaluations. Additionally, I have registered for the CFA L1, which I will be taking in December. This last point is important to me because my desire to pursue an MBA is for a career shift to finance. I want to not only prove that the early college mishaps are a distant memory, but also I am highly capable of handling the rigorous workload and I am serious about a shift to finance. I know what I am capable of on the GMAT if I apply the same work ethic that I applied the past few months in completing the CPA and will also be applying to the CFA. My realistic goal on the GMAT is over 700, with a score in the mid-700s definitely attainable.

From what I gather, my biggest obstacle is my undergraduate GPA; however, my GPA since graduating undergrad is 3.43, with a total of 89 additional credit hours earned (76 graduate level). Have I done enough since undergrad to make up for my poor freshman and sophomore years? I am not going to overhype the CPA and any potential CFA progress as being my saving grace to this forum, but my hope is to frame these accomplishments along with a bump in my GPA in such a way that my progression since deciding to pursue a career in business is a differentiating factor. The truth of the matter is, since I mapped out a plan to enter business I have overcome a lot of odds to make it to where I am today and that is something I want to accentuate.

I realize that I may be excluded from a couple of schools no matter what my GMAT scores turn out to be. I further understand that I am still a year or so early in sizing up my odds at any of the other top programs, but assuming I hit my GMAT target, show progress on the CFA, and present my case in a succinct manner with the support of great recommendations, can I still pierce a good portion of the M7?
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Detail: MBA admissions help
Concentration: Entrepreneurship, Strategy
Schools: Northwestern (Kellogg) - Class of 2000
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Re: Uphill Battle to Top MBA (Poor GPA) [#permalink] New post 18 Jun 2012, 04:32
hey venividi...you're right in that your UGPA is a high priority and it's often times difficult to overcome a low GPA. if i were still on the adcom, here's how I might have looked at your situation:
+ while the absolute UGPA is most important, the trajectory is also important. the fact that your grades improved over time is very positive.
+ if you really did go to a "top northeast school", that will also play a part. in particular, if the school is known for hard grading, etc.
+ your post-grad grades will def help you. i doubt anyone will hand count the # of credit hrs, but it's def a good sign and even more positive since you took some quant classes.
- going for you MSW, then moving to accounting, then going to finance feels like it's all over the place. you'll get dinged on focus.
- overall, a low number is a low number and there's not a lot you can do

IMO, there are some schools that don't give a break to candds like you who had just a bad couple of years and then turned things around. schools like H or S are very harsh in this respect (from what I've observed). there are other places, however, that aren't as focused on that, and are more concerned with career progress, focus, and other skills, such as kellogg, tuck, etc.

while you're focused on your UGPA with this post, my advice is to also be just as focused on your career story. it feels a bit disjointed, so you'll want to make sure it's plenty tight by the time you apply.

hope that's helpful,
-james young
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Re: Uphill Battle to Top MBA (Poor GPA) [#permalink] New post 18 Jun 2012, 17:30
I don't want to mislead anyone, I didn't graduate from a top northeastern university, rather I graduated from the top northeastern public university. I'll just spill the beans and reveal that it's Binghamton University.

@Youngjames, thank you for taking the time to respond. I agree with you're assessment wholeheartedly. I am the first to admit that I did not know exactly what I wanted to do for a very long time. I did not want to bore anyone with the details in my original post, but I took my time in college to follow my interests. Where did it lead me? Well unfortunately, I graduated right around the time the economy turned and a political science degree doesn't carry much weight in a weak job market so I took advantage of the opportunity to continue following my interest in social issues.

When I began pursuing accounting it was always meant to be my tool to transition into finance. Why finance? Because I have never taken a class that was so in line with my natural talents and my way of thinking. During grad school, I picked up on a strange tunnel vision with finance where I pick up on the logic very quickly. A lot can be said about my degree in political science in how it shaped my way of thinking, but it never provided the numbers my mind craves. I understand that this path may not be portrayed as the best decision (I have been told as much by contacts and mentors), but unemployed and unmarketable in a terrible job market, I pursued the route that I felt would give me the best shot at attaining my ultimate goal. I can see how this could be portrayed by AdComs as borderline flakey - but I don't see it that way at all. I had a plan in mind to completely turn around my circumstance and thus far I've followed through on every goal I set forth, from admission to an MS Accounting program with a poor GPA, to completing that condensed program with limited business background, to landing a job with top firm in my field in the most competitive job and finance market in the US, to passing my CPA within my first year while still maintaining a great performance rating. Though these accomplishments don't fully set me up for a future in finance, they do prove my tenacity and ability to work my way to the top. I don't know how tolerant AdComs are for an underdog story but if I am to speak truthfully on the matter, that's the best I have. I know from experience that sometimes all you need is one person to believe in you and that can make the world of difference. I hope that there is a top program that can appreciate my story for what it is - otherwise I will have to back to the drawing board because this is something I have made up my mind about as the next logical step. Given my track record I wouldn't bet against me.

I know that there are a few other things I can do to demonstrate a more fluid transition to finance but truthfully, I am working against the clock. There are other positions within the Big4 that offer a more finance focused path, but pursuing those positions at this point would mean ditching my current position after one year and that would not bode well for my borderline flighty or disjointed profile. My goal is to pursue admission for the fall of 2014 and I can't imagine having two years professional experience in two different positions would help me, but obviously I could be wrong.

Thank you for all the help and your advice. It truly doesn't go unappreciated. I will continue to shape my profile and dig deeper to see it from the perspective of the AdComs. I know there's a way, there's always a way.
Re: Uphill Battle to Top MBA (Poor GPA)   [#permalink] 18 Jun 2012, 17:30
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