How do Adcoms view a super low GPA? : The B-School Application
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# How do Adcoms view a super low GPA?

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Director
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04 Nov 2007, 17:04
My average is terrible in comparison to others', however, my school has extremely low class averages and incredibly hard-working people (coming in from high school, the programs took less than 1 in 10 applicants). We're talking Chinese from Hong Kong who study 15 hours a day, no joke. Anyways, this results in class averages that are usually 60-64%, with 1/5 of the class getting 80+, 1/5 getting 60-70, then the rest <= 60, with about 15-20% failing each class. There is no such thing as a bell curve, and only 1 in 3 graduate the program. Anyways my overall average is 67-68%, which is actually normal for my school. I usually beat the class average in most of my classes and in some a bit below, and I usually just taught myself everything the night before (I rarely went to class). I did great first year-- and I took 3rd year level math classes and 2nd/3rd year electives (in my first year), all the while getting straight A's. However, 2nd year was decent, 3rd/4th year were really bad, and 5th year was a bit better, which is normal for my school.

I'm wondering how I can explain this to the Adcom? Would they realize that a 59% in one class in my program would really be an A- at another school? Like my UG transcript is ugly, but I did an impossible program and still graduated with Honours. I'm not sure how to portray this or whether this would be a big deal (I'm very intelligent and can learn anything with ease).

Thanks
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04 Nov 2007, 17:11
Quote:
I usually just taught myself everything the night before

In your optional essay- just say that you partied away the night before your exams as you needed to get used to the stress faced by Ibankers and Consultants.

I am sure they will be understanding...

Seriously though...
Director
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04 Nov 2007, 17:40
hahahaha that's good
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04 Nov 2007, 17:47
If your transcript includes your class rank and you happen to be ranked well, say 10 in a class of 100 or so, then you can point that out in the optional essay. Any other way you address the issue in the optional essay will probably come across defensive, which is not a good thing.
Director
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04 Nov 2007, 20:01
My school does not publish rankings nor does it publish class averages, unfortunately.
Director
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04 Nov 2007, 20:20
Get a letter from admissions or registrar's office which says how grading is done and what the average grades are from your school. This may be hard to do so, but if the school complies, the letter is proof enough of the difficulty of your program.

On the other hand, the uniqueness of the school does warrant an explanation in the additional essay. As prasad said, it may sound defensive, but make sure to explain how the school does the grading.

Also, a letter from one of the professors whose class you took can help you out if he/she explains how grading is done in this school
Director
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04 Nov 2007, 20:44
Yeah I'm planning on addressing that, but anyone who knows my school knows they annihilate people mark-wise. Like I said, only 1 in 3 graduate, and I know for a fact that they do not publish any grading schemes or class rankings at all (all that matters in my program is whether you graduate or not).
Director
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04 Nov 2007, 22:10
All you need is the class rank. That should be enough.

And then mention it in the optional essay.
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04 Nov 2007, 23:19
I am in the same boat with low GPA (tough school). Hate to break it to you, but our chances are a lot lower than those with high GPA at easy schools.

What it comes down to is this, unless if you're ex marine in iraq who started his own company, or have rich parents, or are half black/half latino guy who worked for unicef, your low GPA pretty much kills any shot at top schools. This is especially true for years like this when the economy is bad, ie more superstars applying.

Yes it is unfair, but schools would rather have a high GPA, even if its from an easy school, it looks better for them statistically. Remember, a lot of schools that are really good, such as some Ivy's, are known to be easy graders with most getting high GPAs and MBA programs will take those guys over you. There are also geniuses at tough schools like MIT/Chicago/Berkeley/IIT/Peking Uni/etc, who still get high grades even at tough schools (in your case, the top 10% of your class) and MBA programs will take those guys over you. There are also people from easy and fairly mediocre schools, but they get high GPAs. MBA programs will take those guys over you too.

As an example, I know a guy from USC with a 3.1 GPA, 720 GMAT who got into Columbia, regular demographic and work experience. I know many other people with profiles like his (3.1 to 3.3 GPAs from mediocre schools) who get in to top MBAs. Another guy I know from MIT has a 2.7 GPA, 720 GMAT, who gets dinged everywhere. I know a lot of people with similar profiles (sub-3 GPA, top schools) who get dinged at all the top MBA programs. I talked to them extensively about their app execution, and they both worked hard on apps and most likely executed their apps equally well. We all know that a 2.7 at MIT is probably at least a 3.5 at USC, but the process is unfair and there's nothing we can do about it.

We are basically being punished for getting into a tough undergrad program. But that's the way it is, I'm on the same boat as you. Zero chance at H/S/W, maybe 1-5% chance at other top 10. I am aiming for top 15-20.

Last edited by aceman626 on 04 Nov 2007, 23:36, edited 1 time in total.
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04 Nov 2007, 23:35
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well, your low GPA may not be a huge problem, considering that you have a 750 GMAT. One gmat clubber got into Darden with a fellowship with a 2.x GPA and a 780 GMAT(and I am sure some kick ass essays). I dont think the outlook is gloomy for you at the top schools so long as you execute well on essays. Your GPA will be a problem, but it definitely is not an application killer.
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05 Nov 2007, 05:18
out of curiosity- which school is this btw?

Yeah I'm planning on addressing that, but anyone who knows my school knows they annihilate people mark-wise. Like I said, only 1 in 3 graduate, and I know for a fact that they do not publish any grading schemes or class rankings at all (all that matters in my program is whether you graduate or not).
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05 Nov 2007, 05:21
I am not sure how the adcoms convert international grades. I mean according to some schools, a first class in India is an A. And that to me sounds kind of ridiculous as almost any decent student would get that.

Anyways I am in the same boat and I do know my chances are a little slimmer at the top schools where a lot more of my classmates are going to apply with slightly higher GPA. So oh well, nothing much you can do than hope for a good set of essays
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05 Nov 2007, 05:25
They will def look for ranking rather than GPA for international students. My school provided my ranking and an explanatory note of the methodology of the school.

If you have a low GPA for other reasons such as part-time work, use essays to explain that...
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05 Nov 2007, 06:50
Plenty of people get into top schools with sub 3.0 GPAs so it is doable. Especially with a high GMAT score. You definitely need to write an optional essay but what you should not do is come across as making excuses. Don't blame the school for your poor performance. If other people manage to get 3.5's and you only got a 2.5 then don't blame grading since obviously its possible to do well academically.

If your schools is as highly regarded as you state and has the reputation of being extremely tough when it comes to grading, then adcoms will know this. Applicants from previous years and this year will give them a sense of what its like. Thats why you don't want to blame the school for your academic shortcomings, because if they get 3 or 4 applicants every year with stellar GPAs then you are going to seem full of it.

Also try not to include stereotypes in your posts, you will offend some of our members who fall into these groups...

We're talking Chinese from Hong Kong who study 15 hours a day, no joke.
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05 Nov 2007, 06:57
well, your low GPA may not be a huge problem, considering that you have a 750 GMAT. One gmat clubber got into Darden with a fellowship with a 2.x GPA and a 780 GMAT(and I am sure some kick ass essays). I dont think the outlook is gloomy for you at the top schools so long as you execute well on essays. Your GPA will be a problem, but it definitely is not an application killer.

Hey, that's me! A low GPA can be overcome. Looking at it from a school's standpoint, a low GPA generally means either lack of ability or lack of dedication. So you need to do what you can to address both issues.

A high GMAT is the first step because schools want to be sure that you can handle the material. A 750 should reassure them that you can handle the work.

A low GPA could also mean that you are a slacker or weren't dedicated or focused on your classwork (definitely the case for me in college). You need to do something to show them you are dedicated; the most common method is taking some additional classes and getting As. Some people also do this to show they have ability, but honestly, I don't think b-schools put much value in the content of the courses. Mostly, they are interested in whether you'll put for the effort to take some classes, and are serious enough to get As. I did 4 online courses - select something business related to let the b-schools know you're undertaking the effort to show your seriousness.

It's still going to be a challenge that can't be overcome at some schools, but others will give you a shot. Just make sure you nail all the other stuff.
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05 Nov 2007, 07:05
Pelihu - thanks so much for the good information. i too am a victim of low-gpa syndrome =P ... I am taking extra classes now to bump it up. my gpa for my last 3 semesters was no lower than a 3.75 (4.0 last semester) - but my cummulative gpa is still in the toilet!

im wondering though - how do adcoms visit very low / failing grades in math courses? I am very good at math but working fulltime (50+ hours/week) for the last 8 years took time away from my study time... i took calc 1 through 3 + matrix algebra + statistics and my gpa for all was roughly a C+ , with 2 F's thrown in (i retook those courses and got higher grades)....

i am starting to prepare right now for the gmat although i will be taking it in (roughly) a years time. i want a 750+ and am preparing seriously/thoroughly as time goes on.

i always put my work ahead of my education but now realized that was foolish. i want to get into wharton and i am really shootin for the stars here. i will quit my current job (\$85k/year) to get into wharton for my mba. that is how serious i am!
- tsd
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05 Nov 2007, 12:23
There are people at HBS, Stanford, Chicago, etc. with sub-3.0 undergraduate GPAs. I'm confident, however, that they've excelled somehow, someway, that make them truly exceptional applicants - not really good - exceptional. I think one would be hard pressed to get into an elite program with a sub-3.0 without something that makes the adcom go "WOW!" when reading the application.

Or so I was told by a family friend who's an admissions consultant...

FWIW, I'm trying to overcome a poor undergrad GPA myself.
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05 Nov 2007, 12:39
DrivinWest wrote:
There are people at HBS, Stanford, Chicago, etc. with sub-3.0 undergraduate GPAs. I'm confident, however, that they've excelled somehow, someway, that make them truly exceptional applicants - not really good - exceptional. I think one would be hard pressed to get into an elite program with a sub-3.0 without something that makes the adcom go "WOW!" when reading the application.

Or so I was told by a family friend who's an admissions consultant...

FWIW, I'm trying to overcome a poor undergrad GPA myself.

I hate to say it but a fair number of the people with GPAs below the 80% range are much like those who are below the 80% GMAT range. Under represented minorities, well connected, or coming from something so unusual and outstanding that they are valuable additions. Even then they might get conditional acceptances. The more common your applicant pool the tougher it is to get in with anything being below average.

Director
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05 Nov 2007, 12:42
Is Canada really an underepresented country?

That's a shocker.
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05 Nov 2007, 12:45
Montreal.....hottest women ever.
05 Nov 2007, 12:45

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