An alternative transcript is an academic transcript of courses taken for a grade that was not used to award your bachelor’s degree. The most common type of alternative transcript is your graduate school transcript. However, it is not necessary to pursue a MA/MS or Ph.D in order to build an alternative transcript. Many schools allow non-matriculated students to take courses even though they have no intentions of earning a degree.
Although a good undergraduate transcript leading to the BA is best, an alternative transcript full of undergraduate math/stat courses of 4.0 GPA within two years of MBA admissions is a great way to overcome a bad undergraduate GPA (defined as less than a 3.1 for top-25 MBA programs). As the GPA goes below 3.1, the chances of gaining admissions rapidly approaches zero. Without mitigating factors such as a superior alternative transcript, there may be no way to overcome the low undergraduate GPA.
You Have a Low Undergrad GPA, But You Haven’t Graduated With a Bachelor’s Yet
If you have the time and the money, it may be beneficial to take as many courses as possible to raise your undergraduate GPA. As a college senior, 20 credits of A grades will not move the GPA very much due to the number of attempted credits. However, every little bit to rise above 3.0 or 3.1 GPA will help.
At some universities, you may be limited by the number of semesters or quarters that you can attend. For example, UC Berkeley enforces a 130 semester unit limitation with regards to continued attendance. If you don’t graduate by the time you hit the 130 credit limit, you will have to complete the rest of the courses at another school or through the university’s extension program. Before deciding to delay graduation, it is very important to talk to a guidance counselor to determine if delaying graduation is a bad idea.
If you can take courses to help improve your overall GPA, you should take a few easy courses along with anything else required for graduation. It is best to skip the more difficult quantitative courses if you will not be entering business school for a few years. The value of math and statistics courses will be higher within two years of admissions. If math and statistics courses were taken more than five years ago, MBA admissions staff may question your ability to complete MBA courses that require a high degree of quantitative knowledge.
With respect to the alternative transcript, you should take math and statistics courses to prove that you can handle math-heavy MBA courses. The subject and the grades that you earn on these courses will be very important in helping adcom members figure out if you can handle the quantitative MBA work. Try to take the math/statistics courses within two years of MBA admissions.
You Have a Low Undergrad GPA and Have Graduated Already
Once you’ve been awarded your bachelor’s degree, there is nothing you can do to improve your undergraduate record. Graduate school GPAs are known to be inflated, especially since a grade of less than a B may result in the student being placed on probation or dismissed. A 4.00 GPA from a graduate program is nowhere near as impressive as a 4.00 GPA earned in an undergraduate program. However, math/stat courses taken during graduate school can help show adcom members that you can handle MBA courses that have a heavy quantitative emphasis.
Math and statistics courses are best when building the alternative transcript. Business courses may help, but usually not as much as heavy quant courses. Business courses may be more helpful for those who have not taken many business courses while pursuing the undergraduate degree. Try to take the math/stat courses within two years of admissions. Math/stat courses three to five years old are probably still OK. Math/stat courses older than five years are not as good since many people don’t remember most of the material from math courses taken that long ago.
Finally, it’s a good idea to take math or business courses that you did poorly in during the undergraduate years. Retaking the courses and getting grades of A can help applicants convince adcom members that the bad grades are not necessarily indicative of future performance.