How to Get Into a Good MBA Program With a Low GPA (Less Than 3.0)

Getting into business school to get an MBA can be a challenge. It can be helpful for students with low undergrad grades to know why admissions officers won’t admit many of them.  After that, students can take steps to help improve their applications in order to gain admissions to an MBA program.


The Minimum GPA to Enter Any Graduate Program

First of all, graduate programs in the United States require a GPA of 3.00 or above to avoid academic probation. A 2.99 GPA in a graduate program will lead to academic probation. Keeping the GPA below 3.00 for two or more terms will result in dismissal from the MBA program. When students have an undergraduate GPA of less than 3.00, admissions officers are worried that those students won’t be able to meet the absolute minimum requirements for getting a graduate degree. It is very important for those with low undergrad GPAs to convince admissions officers that they can succeed in graduate school.

Taking Math and Business Courses to Make Up for a Low GPA

One way to prove that the low GPA is more of an anomaly rather than a persistent pattern is to take business and math courses with excellent grades. Although many schools will not give any GPA credit for courses taken after the baccalaureate degree has been awarded, a  few relevant courses with straight A grades will help a lot. This is especially true if there has been a significant period of time between the undergrad degree and the extra business courses.

Many Other Factors Count in Gaining Admissions as Well

The GPA is only one element in deciding whether or not to admit a student. For example, Harvard Business School has rejected applicants with undergraduate GPAs of 4.00. Other factors such as GMAT, managerial experience, and recommendations count as well. A person who has a low undergrad GPA will need strong compensating factors to make up for the low GPA. In many MBA programs, the low GPA requires a great GMAT score plus managerial experience in order to have a chance at gaining admissions. In other words, the undergrad GPA is the most important factor. However, other factors do count. But they count to a lesser extent.

Good Grades in Another Graduate Program Don’t Count for Much

Many people have continued on to graduate school with high GPAs even though they had low GPAs in undergrad. Although a high graduate GPA won’t hurt, it may not help that much. The courses taken for another graduate program may not be relevant to business. In addition, admissions officers know that graduate courses have inflated GPAs due to the minimum 3.00 GPA to avoid academic probation. That is why getting grades of A in business undergrad courses is more helpful.

The GMAT: Improving Your Chances of Getting Into a Good MBA Program in Four Hours

In just four hours, a candidate for a competitive MBA program can go from underdog to top contender with a high score on the GMAT.  This is why it is advantageous for most MBA applicants to spend the time and money on a GMAT preparation course and subsequent study.

At highly competitive MBA programs such as the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, only a small percentage of students below a GPA of 3.00 gain admission. At Haas, around 5% of students need to get permission from the dean of the graduate division to gain admissions. Because this is a lot more work for admissions officers, it is important to give them reasons to go through all that trouble (eg. Great managerial experience, excellent GMAT scores, etc.).

At many schools, those with undergraduate GPAs of less than 3.00 are admitted provisionally with the need to earn a GPA greater than 3.00 during the first term to stay in the program. Those who don’t have adequate preparation for business school are also admitted provisionally with the requirement to complete certain undergraduate courses within the first term or two in order to stay in the program.

What to Do? Undergraduate GPA of 2.8 to 3.1

Those with a GPA of 2.8 to 3.1 with great GMAT scores, 4.0 GPA on recent coursework, and great work experience will probably want to apply to many desirable MBA programs. Most will send rejection letters, but a few may be willing to make the investment. However, those that don’t make the investment to have strong compensating factors for the low GPA should not be surprised if they get rejected from every single top-50 MBA program.

What to Do? Undergraduate GPA of 2.5 to 2.8

Students with grade point averages of less than 2.8 will probably need to set their sights lower. Getting admitted anywhere is unlikely, but not impossible. It’s best to try and get rejected than to not try at all. Even lesser MBA programs will have trouble getting these sub-2.8 GPA students past the dean of the graduate school.

What to Do? Undergraduate GPA Below 2.5

Unfortunately, most lower tier MBA programs will not accept a student with a GPA of less than 2.5 without significant remediation requirements. It may be tough to find nearby campuses with MBA programs that are willing to admit with a GPA of less than 2.5.

What Happens if You’re the Son or Daughter of a US Senator or a High Profile CEO?

Those who are related to famous people or those with lots of money may be able to get in anyway. For example, it can be very helpful to be the daughter of a president of a major world power. This doesn’t mean that every top tier school will waive admissions requirements, but the chances of getting in with a GPA below 3.0 are much better for those who are well connected.