The Tuesday Q&A: How To Overcome a Low GPA

Got a question about those MBA applications? Stuck on an essay? Need a little clarity? Chances are, you’re not the only one.

Thankfully, Admissionado founder and Harvard MBA Jon Frank has an answer… for everything admissions-related. And he’s going to share all of his answers with you, right here, every Tuesday.

This week it’s all about the GPA? Can you overcome undergraduate struggles? How? Let’s see what Jon has to say….


I didn’t apply myself as much in undergrad as I probably should have and now that I’m applying to business schools, I’m nervous about my GPA. Is that going to keep me from getting accepted? What can I do to offset that GPA?


This is question we get all the time—and we deal with it with our clients daily at PE.  In fact, GPA isn’t THAT important to business schools.  So long as you are in at a 3.0 or so and above, you will be just fine.  Now, if you are BELOW that number, there are three main ways to address the issue:

1. GMAT score.  There is no better way to battle a bad GPA than by NAILING your GMAT.  Just picture how easy that argument is to make: “Sure I was irresponsible when I was 18.  But I’m 26 now, and I just got a 760 on my GMAT. And you deign to question my intelligence…”

2. Extra coursework.  Some schools (the most popular is University of California by far) offer up courses.  You can take them online, and you WILL HAVE TO get an A to overcome your low GPA.  But if you can do that, you will be in great shape.  “See that?  Sure I was irresponsible when I was 18, but I’ve since retaken some very tough courses, and I nailed ’em.  I’m ready to nail courses at your MBA program also…”

3. Work Experience.  If you can show that you have very quantitative experience – for example, having received bad grades in quantitative courses – an argument can be made here. Just show them what you’re doing now…and how you’re doing it well.  The same, by the way, is true with the softer skills. “Gosh I did badly in my English classes, but I write every day at work and I am published to 200 financial houses daily.  And you deign to question my verbal skills…”

And finally, there is the art of EXPLAINING yourself.  We will need an Optional Essay, if our GPA is below a certain threshold. This Optional Essay is of course an art form, and we have discussed it elsewhere. (Click here to read aaaall about it.) But if you can strike the right balance between confidence, honesty, and PROOF, you can overcome your low GPA without a problem.

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