How Does a Low GPA and Age of Student Factor in Top-10 MBA Admissions

As time passes, the effect of a low GPA is lessened. The opposite is true as well. Someone who is 24 years old with 2 years of work experience is going to have a hard time getting into a tier 1 business school with a low GPA. Let’s look at this from the admissions committee’s point of view.

GPA

As a person gets older, his or her career accomplishments grow. At age 21 after graduation from college, he or she is probably an individual contributor or hasn’t even found a job in the desired field. By age 25, that student should have a few years of experience and a few promotions beyond the individual contributor. By age 28 or so, that student should be trying for director level positions at his or her company. Most people are not able to progress at this pace. Some people remain as individual contributors for their entire careers. That is fine, but then why would an admissions committee pick someone who is a perpetual individual contributor. So what does this have to do with GPA?

 

GPA Matters More With Students That Have Less Work Experience

The GPA is one of many factors. The GMAT, letters of recommendation from supervisors, letters of recommendation from faculty, and work experience are other factors into the type of student body that the school wants. When a student has only a year or two of job experience, the work experience “score” will be poor relative to older students. However, the young student can make up for the lack of work experience with a great GPA and GMAT.  It’s even better if the courses are heavily quantitative such as finance, accounting, statistics, and calculus. Most people need to take refresher courses in math anyway. But don’t try to slip one past the committee by taking an elementary algebra course to prove quantitative and academic ability.

The GPA is also important because it proves the student can survive the academic rigor of the MBA program. As a student gets older, the GPA is less of a reliable predictor versus a current GMAT score. Many older adults lose the ability to succeed in academia. However, the astute older student can take courses that help meet business school prerequisite requirements to prepare for the return to academia. Some schools require a recent statistics or calculus course taken in the last five years or passing a waiver exam. Taking a course can help offset the low undergraduate GPA.

The Plan: Delay Application to an MBA Program for Several Years After Graduation

If a student has a low GPA, the best course of action is to excel at work and start getting promoted. This will take a few years. Don’t bother with applying for top tier MBA programs during the senior year. Instead, get work experience that includes a lot of promotions over time. That will demonstrate a lot of potential. Make sure the admissions committee has the details of career progression. Don’t just say you’re a director. Describe how you became a director. About a year before applying, start taking rigorous courses related to business and get straight As. Then rock the GMAT with a high score. It’s very important to get a high GMAT since the low GPA won’t help (nor matter as much). Get compelling recommendations from professors in recent courses. Write compelling essays that are believable with actionable plans rather than vague ideas. Finally, do well in the interview by being convincing on goals after the MBA.

Be Realistic About the Chances of Getting In With a Sub-2.8 GPA Even With a Compelling Story and a High GMAT

At Anderson UCLA, the lowest GPA admitted has been 2.8-2.9 depending on the class (2.8 in 2007, 2.9 in 2008, 2.8 in 2009).  Nobody has been admitted with a GPA lower than that. Perhaps it is because students with less than a 2.8 do not have the ability to excel on the GMAT.  It’s important to dream high and spend years planning for an attempt to be admitted to a top MBA program, but the journey may end without success for those with less than a 2.8. This is especially true at elite and ultra elite MBA programs. Be prepared to spend a lot of time explaining the low GPA. Be prepared to prove that the low GPA is not indicative of future academic success. A GMAT of 740 is very good, but it is probably not enough to compensate for a 2.7 GPA or below. Finally, be prepared to be rejected from a lot of schools. With a lot of luck, those with a GPA less than 2.8 might get in somewhere. But it’s not unexpected to fail to get into any top-25 MBA program with a GPA less than 2.8.

GPAs & GMATs For The Top 50 U.S. Business Schools

Source: Poets&Quants’ 2011 Ranking of the Best Business Schools and School Reported Data to U.S. News & World Report for classes entering in the fall of 2011.

Rank & School               GMAT      Range              GPA      Range               Selectivity
  1. Harvard 724 550 — 780** 3.67 NA 11.5%
  2. Stanford 729 680 — 770 3.69 3.40 — 3.94 7.1%
  3. Chicago 720 680 — 760 3.52 3.06 — 3.90 23.0%
  4. UPenn 718 660 — 760* 3.60 3.05 — 3.90* 20.0%
  5. Northwestern 708 650 — 760 3.69 3.10 — 3.89 22.9%
  6. MIT 710 663 — 760 3.53 3.14 — 3.88 15.6%
  7. Columbia 715 680 — 760 3.50 3.10 — 3.80 20.8%
  8. Dartmouth 717 680 — 760 3.49 3.13 — 3.80 20.4%
  9. UC-Berkeley 715 679 — 760 3.61 3.30 — 3.89 13.8%
10. Duke 690 640 — 740 3.42 2.94 — 3.86 27.5%
11. Cornell 694 640 — 740 3.29 2.71 — 3.79 27.6%
12. Virginia 703 640 — 750 3.45 3.10 — 3.83 26.6%
13. Michigan 703 650 — 750 3.40 2.80 — 3.80 40.6%
14. New York 720 680 — 760 3.51 3.15 — 3.84 15.7%
15. Yale 717 660 — 760 3.55 3.22 — 3.79 21.3%
16. Carnegie Mellon 696 630 — 750 3.26 2.76 — 3.75 26.7%
17. UCLA 704 660 — 750 3.56 3.23 — 3.88 22.6%
18. Texas 692 630 — 750 3.40 2.87 — 3.84 28.6%
19. UNC 692 640 — 750 3.34 2.73 — 3.86 42.6%
20. Emory 677 606 — 740 3.38 2.96 — 3.85 34.2%
21. Indiana 664 580 — 730 3.33 2.89 — 3.76 38.5%
22. Georgetown 683 640 — 730 3.32 2.86 — 3.80 49.4%
23. Vanderbilt 682 630 — 730 3.37 2.84 — 3.79 37.1%
24. Notre Dame 687 610 — 750 3.26 2.60 — 3.84 35.2%
25. Southern California 690 640 — 730 3.34 2.90 — 3.72 29.5%

——–

26. Wisconsin 675 610 — 740 3.32 2.82 — 3.88 33.3%
27. Minnesota 692 630 — 740 3.40 2.83 — 3.94 43.4%
28. Ohio State 668 590 — 720 3.38 2.92 — 3.81 31.8%
29. Washington Univ. 698 640 — 750 3.43 3.00 — 3.85 34.1%
30. Rice 673 590 — 750 3.40 2.80 — 3.90 27.0%
31. Maryland 656 598 — 712 3.30 2.70 — 3.84 43.7%
32. Texas A&M 649 570 — 710 3.40 3.00 — 3.90 25.1%
33. Washington 670 610 — 720 3.37 2.92 — 3.81 43.4%
34. Penn State 643 560 — 720 3.23 2.60 — 3.80 29.5%
35. Boston University 680 620 — 740 3.35 2.87 — 3.71 32.6%
36. Brigham Young 672 610 — 730 3.50 3.03 — 3.86 54.2%
37. Rochester 680 620 — 720 3.45 3.00 — 3.93 34.3%
38. Wake Forest 648 580 — 710 3.25 2.69 — 3.77 53.6%
39. Purdue 643 540 — 702 3.23 2.84 — 3.74 44.8%
40. Georgia Tech 678 620 — 740 3.38 2.85 — 3.88 38.1%
41. Michigan State 641 557 — 720 3.30 2.80 — 3.80 40.8%
42. Iowa 665 620 — 710 3.35 2.90 — 3.71 42.0%
43. Illinois 650 570 — 710 3.20 2.67 — 3.65 31.9%
44. Boston College 666 600 — 710 3.41 2.95 — 3.84 34.8%
45. Babson 618 530 — 710 3.23 2.58 — 3.74 72.8%
46. Arizona State 676 606 — 730 3.40 2.98 — 3.89 36.0%
47. SMU 639 570 — 710 3.40 2.80 — 3.80 49.5%
48. UC-Irvine 657 600 — 720 3.35 2.95 — 3.78 33.4%
49. Georgia 637 560 — 710 3.21 2.76 — 3.73 39.2%
50. Northeastern 643 578 — 710 3.27 2.78 — 3.86 28.4%

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  1. Jonathan says

    Although being older helps, UE and E schools won’t take you with a bad GPA or bad GMAT. Why should they burn their reputations by letting you losers in.

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