Barefoot: College GPA is important, not everything

Julie Barefoot, Associate Dean of MBA Admissions at Emory University Goizueta Business School

The short answer is no, you should not be worried but you should address your situation. Or, phrased another way, a weaker GPA, in and of itself, should not deter you from applying to your MBA program of choice.

An applicant’s undergraduate GPA is an important element in the application review process but there are numerous ways for a candidate to overcome (or compensate) for a less-than-stellar GPA. From an admissions officer’s perspective, past academic performance is a good predictor of future academic performance. So, if there is anything about your undergraduate grades that you believe will give an admissions officer reason to doubt your ability to handle MBA level coursework, then the applicant should explain these circumstances. The explanation should not be too detailed or personal in nature, but should forthrightly address the reasons for the weaker GPA and how this academic performance will not repeat itself in the MBA program. Strong or above average results on the GMAT or GRE can demonstrate preparedness for MBA study and compensate for a weaker GPA. And, the completion of a rigorous certification process (if relevant for your career) such as earning a CPA or CFA can also be a positive anecdote to a weaker GPA.

Always remember that the MBA application review process is holistic. Admissions Committees consider the applicant’s academic preparedness (test scores, undergraduate grades and especially quantitative coursework) as well as an assessment of work experience quality and potential for career success in making all admissions decision. An applicant’s GPA is also evaluated in the context of the difficulty of the academic major, the academic reputation or rigor of the undergraduate institution as well as the applicant’s grade trends (meaning, did the applicant perform better in the last two years versus an overall).

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