3 Ways To Overcome a Low GPA When Applying for an MBA


For some years now, business schools have been seeing a significant increase in the number of applications for their Masters in Business Administration (MBA).

With too many candidates for a few spots, your Grade Point Average (GPA) can be the most important number when you are applying for an MBA. After all, it indicates how well your grades were on average so far.

At the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the average GPA among those selected for the current academic year was 3.8. Sounds discouraging if your GPA is below average, right?

But it’s not the end of the world: the GPA isn’t always the deciding factor on whether a candidate will be accepted or not. You just need to maximize your chances in other areas.

These are three ways to overcome a low GPA and do well in the MBA application process.

1. Submit Strong GMAT Scores

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is an optional exam and most of the top MBA programs in the country don’t consider it as a single deciding factor – especially for online courses.

But you should consider taking it anyway to show that you excel in certain areas valued in an MBA. After all, any help you can get to stand out from other candidates is welcome.

To stand out, you need to score more than 600 points. A score of 660 already puts you among the best in the class. But if you want to be in the Top 10, aim for 700 points or more.

It’s not an easy task and you might consider a GMAT prep course to help you get there.  A great GMAT score could be a game-changer when trying to offset a low GPA. Simply inform the schools of your choice when taking the exam and they will automatically be notified if you have a great score.

And don’t wait until the last minute to start your GMAT prep.

2. Exceptional Professional Experience

Some MBA programs rate your work experience more closely than your grade point average. A few business schools require candidates to have between three and five years of work experience to even apply for an MBA.

This factor is taken into consideration because the grades don’t always accurately represent your ability as a professional. MBA admissions committees prefer to review your resume for evidence that you have discipline, experience, and leadership skills.

Therefore, the best way to disguise a low GPA is to present an amazing resume, preferably in an area that allows you to show your best qualities and individual strengths, but also your ability to work in a team.

Here are some tips to shine:

  • If you contributed to the company where you work in some way, and you can prove it, be sure to mention this in your application.
  • Showing experience is great, but you can also be rejected for having too much experience. After all, you’re doing an MBA to learn, not to teach.
  • Select only the highlights of your resume and be sure to mention if you have a diversity of professional backgrounds (as this means you are suited for different areas).
  • Demonstrating ambition is good, but the admissions committee will always evaluate the achievements that you already have in your work.

If you don’t have such a rich professional experience to show right now, don’t worry. You can still make up for it by showing that you’ve dedicated yourself to several extra-curricular activities, hobbies, and/or community service.

3. Take Additional Coursework

Finally, you can overcome low grades by showing admissions professionals that you are ready to continue studying and growing. Take some additional courses, particularly graduate coursework, to prove you’re ready for an MBA and have what it takes beyond the GPA.

Choose courses in areas like statistics, finance, accounting, and others involving numbers and analysis, which are usually valued during an MBA. But obviously, this strategy will only work if you study hard and excel in these new classes.

You Are Better Than Some Low Grades

You can’t just abandon your dream of getting an MBA at a great business school just because of your GPA. It can be frustrating to have low grades, but that does not mean you’re out of the selection process.

Yes, a few schools still require a minimum GPA for admission. It’s a way of trying to identify the best candidates faster, so to speak.

But a low GPA will quickly be forgotten in the face of other aspects that can shine in your application.

So enough with the excuses: get to work and get ready to bury a GPA you’re not proud of under layers of achievements and experiences that will make a difference!