4. MBA Undergrad GPA
Surprising, isn't it?
You would think that your undergraduate GPA would be weighted more heavily, but at most schools it isn't — and for good reasons.
First, most B-school applicants were not planning to apply to graduate programs, so they might not have focused on playing the grade game the way most premed or pre-law students did. Why hold mediocre grades against an applicant who had no intention of applying to grad school five years down the line?
Second, that was then and this is now. I've been told by many admissions people that they discount undergraduate GPAs because they are old measures of performance. Admissions officers are more interested in how you perform now — thus the emphasis on GMAT scores.
I remember one director, however, pointing out how the emphasis on GPA can vary from candidate to candidate. He said that he has to rely more heavily on GPA when evaluating the candidacy of a relatively young applicant who has been in the workforce only a short time.
For another applicant with five years of work experience, however, he puts more emphasis on that experience and on the applicant's GMAT score, and less emphasis on his (more distant) undergraduate GPA.
While I list GPA as number 4 in order of importance, you shouldn't think that its value is set in stone. The evaluation process is fairly holistic, so if you performed well in college, emphasize that performance and the admissions staff may buy into it. If you didn't perform well, talk about your terrific GMAT score and ignore your undergrad years.
Whatever you do, don't whine about your mediocre grades; take responsibility for them. There is one excuse, however, that you can get away with. If you worked and paid your own way through undergrad, be sure to mention that in your essays. Working is the one universal justification for bad grades. (A comment I've heard from many admissions officers.)
A Caveat to Your Undergraduate GPA
While you might be able to explain away your less-than-stellar undergrad GPA by informing the admissions people of the Twinkies-and-beer lifestyle of your college years, you won't be able to slide bad math grades by them quite so easily. Admissions people will look very closely at your undergraduate math performance.
As I mentioned in the GMAT section of this Web site, admissions officers are very concerned about math skills. If you believe that your math grades are not up to par and that your performance on the math portion of the GMAT isn't good enough to make up for those grades, do everything possible to take a math course through a local university before applying to B-school. You need to allay the admissions committee's fears about your ability to cut it in math-intensive classes. While you can be accepted into a great MBA program with only better-than-average verbal skills, you won't be accepted if you are suspected of having anything but strong math skills. So fix your math profile.
The Bottom Line On GPA
You can't change your GPA, so there isn't much sense in worrying about it. People with bad GPAs get into great schools all the time, though, because they have strong GMAT scores and good work experience.
Don't let your GPA keep you from applying to top business schools. The median GPAs reported by some top programs can be intimidating, but the GPAs of accepted students vary a great deal—even more than do their GMAT scores. (The middle 80 percent range at top schools can be 3.0 to 3.8.)
One thing you can do, however, to address your GPA is take some classes through a local university extension program. School is a lot easier the second time around, and you might be surprised to find that you can now get good grades in classes you used to hate. Performing well in school now should convince admissions officers that you can do well in their program regardless of your undergraduate GPA.
The 7 Criteria
You won't be admitted to a top-tier MBA school without a pretty decent GMAT number. The schools' own statistics prove this simple truth.
MBA APPLICATION ESSAYS
It's common for applicants with great essays but only acceptable GMAT scores to beat out candidates with higher numbers.
MBA APPLICATION TIMELINE
When you submit your application can be as important as what you say in it. At the elite schools, you'd better be in one of the first two rounds.
MBA UNDERGRAD GPA
Undergrad GPA is not as important as most applicants believe. But there's a caveat: if your math grades suck it will pay to do some work.
MBA WORK EXPERIENCE
This isn't the type of experience you have at work, it's the amount. As applications rise, schools want students with more experience
Recommendations are often a better reflection of the recommender than of the applicant. I think they should be dumped.
Interviews can be very important, but their impact varies widely from school to school—and some schools don't use them at all.