Admissions officers will evaluate your academic history and standardized test scores to judge whether you have the intelligence, discipline, and drive to perform in their MBA program. In this article, we point out a few things that might raise concerns when the business schools you apply to review your grades and test scores. These application red flags include:
- Low cumulative GPA or GPA in major
- No classes or average performance in quantitative, business-oriented, and/or communication and writing courses
- GMAT score below the school’s median
- TOEFL score below the median
- 3-Year Bachelor’s Degree
- Degree from a school with a questionable academic reputation
Let’s briefly examine each of these Academic Profile dings. For prescriptions on how to address shortcomings in your grades and test scores and a comprehensive guide to optimizing every element of your application purchase MBA Prep School’s eBook and video series.
Low cumulative GPA or GPA in major
Your overall GPA and GPA in your major matter because they provide important signals about your academic aptitude, discipline, and attitude towards academic learning. A cumulative GPA below a 3.25 puts your academic ability in question, at least for the most selective programs.
No classes or average performance in quantitative, business-oriented, and/or communication and writing courses
While your overall performance matters, a letter grade of a C or lower in any individual class will also register on the “ding meter.” Admissions committees will pay particular attention to your performance in quantitative courses, such as Calculus and Statistics, core-business courses, such as Finance and Accounting, and business-oriented courses, such as Economics. Communication courses, such as Writing and Public Speaking courses, will also be reviewed carefully because an MBA program requires excellent written and verbal communication abilities.
GMAT score below the school’s median
A GMAT or GRE score below the median will raise concerns. As will verbal or quantitative scores below the 80th percentile, especially for the top programs.
“Test Of English as a Foreign Language” (TOEFL) score below the median
If English is not your first language and you didn’t study at an English-language university, then most English-language business schools will require you to take the TOEFL Exam. As with the GMAT, many schools report their median scores for the TOEFL and you need to score above that median to be competitive.
3-Year Bachelor’s Degree
One ding that some international applicants – such as those from India – run into is that they hold a 3-year bachelor’s degree. This will make them ineligible to apply to some U.S. MBA programs. If you fall into this group then you should verify the eligibility policies of the schools you are applying to. Even programs that officially accept applicants with a 3-year degree may consider you less competitive than candidates with a 4-year undergraduate degree.
Degree from a school with a questionable academic reputation
Even if you have a stellar GPA, your Academic Profile will be weakened if your school doesn’t have a solid reputation in the academic community. If you went to what is affectionately known in the United States as a “party school” or if your degree is from a program that very few people have heard of, we encourage you to take some additional steps to fortify your academic profile.
Overcoming “Dings” in Your Academic Profile
Question: I discovered I have some “dings” in my Academic Profile. What should I do now?
Answer: In our How to Apply for an MBA! eBook and Online Courses, we will show you how to proactively address each potential issue to increase your chances of earning an acceptance letter. For example, you will learn that the most straightforward way to enhance your academic profile is to complete additional college-level or even post-graduate coursework. Second, everyone benefits from a high GMAT score, but your standardized test scores will be even more important if you need to combat a low GPA.