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Will a mediocre undergraduate GPA prevent me from ever getting into a decent graduate program?


Matthew Davidson Dayton, OH

I earned my undergraduate degree about 10 years ago and my GPA was just so-so -- a little over 2.8. I'm a different person now, made better and more mature from my life experiences. I would like to pursue an MBA from a reputable college but I fear that the admissions people will see my transcripts and laugh, even if I have a good GMAT score. Is there still hope for me or am I doomed to attend a second- or third-rate school?

22 February 2013 9 replies Education & Training



Morgan Lerette Glendale, AZ


Grad schools acceptance committees take a holistic approach. Part of that is GPA. It matters but they also take into consideration other GPA factors: what school you attended, your degree, etc. However, if you smash the GMAT and have solid, quantifiable, results oriented work experience which shows your skills far surpass your undergrad GPA, it can mitigate some of the negative effects.

Based on your GMAT comment, I assume you are looking at an MBA, the best way to show you have matured would be to take business courses at a college for a semester and ace them. This shows you have the ability to do well and the desire to prove your undergrad GPA was does not represent who you currently are. It also has an added bonus of showing a more recent college experience (as most MBA students seem to be 4-5 years out of their undergrad).

If the prestige of the school doesn't matter, look at MBA programs in the location you want to live because, through the program, you'll obtain local business connections. Many big firms recruit locally because it is too expensive to recruit on a national level and they don't want to pay for relocation (PCS for the military folks).

I'm not sure if that helped but it got me out of studying for my marketing final for 10 minutes.


23 February 2013 Helpful answer


Dave Zimmerman West Palm Beach, FL


I had a 2.01 GPA in Undergrad and got a Harvard Masters.

You can get into any college anywhere by looking for the back door. Most colleges have extension schools. These programs provide working professionals the ability to continue their education while working. Start there as most extension programs have paths to become full time students after a certain number of classes.


Vicki Keller Austin, TX

Hi Matthew,

As someone who works in graduate admissions at a state university, I must tell you that the posted "minimum" GPA is not a hard and fast minimum. Often, you can be admitted "conditionally" (or probationally) which means that you'll need to earn a minimum GPA with your new classes and that you might not be eligible for graduate student employment such as being a Teaching Assistant.

One of the keys to getting your admissions application through the process is to reach out early to the graduate advisor and/or graduate coordinator. Begin a conversation with them, explaining your situation, your motivation for returning to school, and your understanding of how your work/life experiences since your last schooling has prepared you for success as a graduate student. Once your application has a face and a story, it is easier for the program administrators to act as an advocate for you and get you through the admissions process.



Josh Tayloe New York, NY


I went to a top MBA program and was in a similar situation with GPA and GMAT. It definitely can be done. Couple thoughts: (1) I agree with the respondent who advised taking a class or two and acing them. Specifically, I would take a quantitative class... micro econ, calculus, and/or statistics are preferred. You can do these online (UC Berkeley has good options, for example). One of the concerns of the admissions dept will be whether you can handle the quantitative aspects of the program. (2) It is not just about grades and GMAT. As important as anything else is articulating why you want a MBA and why the relevant school. Make sure they know you have a plan and they are an important stepping stone for you. You have to nail that question!


Jennifer Hutchings Benton, AR

Some universities will admit you on a probationary status until you have completed so many hours and achieved a certain GPA. I was on probabtion for the first 9 hours of my program. That didn't stop me from graduating with a Masters in Science in 2007. With a 4.0 GPA! Believe me, you will get accepted into a good program. Good luck!!


Travis D. Arlington, VA


I am in a similar situation, although already applied to schools for this fall. I had nine years military and a 2.8 GPA. I only applied to two schools in the top 30, both with average GPA and GMAT scores above mine. I have been accepted to one and waiting to here from the other. I am positive my essays and experience would put me in competition at a top 15 program as well.

That being said, don't listen to the crazy people out there. Some will say unless it is H/S/W you are wasting your time. This is not true for a career switcher, most top MBA programs will be of value.

If you have any questions about the application process message me. A friend of mine is currently applying 3rd round this year, so I can provide you with some knowledge about a few different top 25 programs.

Study hard for the GMAT and have multiple people review your essays.



Susanne Scholz Conway, AR

I just graduated from Park University in Kansas City, MO. They work really well with a wide range of people including military. They would expect you to step up your 'game' obviously, and your career experience will show them that you have that ability.


Stephen Lawson Arlington, TX


You are getting some good advice. I would suggest, though, that doing your homework and being straightforward about your Army experience will be a great help and will minimize delays.

US News and World Report and Forbes have great listings of grad schools, their admissions criteria and their outcomes.

When I left the Marines after five years, as a communications officer, I had planned amphibious operations in the US and abroad, served on staffs, managed $2.3 million per year budgets, commanded and lead 250 Marines, worked in recon, planning staffs and been a baby sitter to young adults. That is experience that you don't get anywhere else, and everyone on the admissions committee knows it.

You send them your transcript, test scores and a letter. You probably have it, but your letter (or essay) has to sell it. You will be fine. Don't be afraid to do some (but NOT all) applications to schools whose average GMAT scores are higher than yours. You might not succeed, but you also might be pleasantly surprised.

Note that there are some great bargains out there!

All the best,
Stephen Lawson
Kabul, Afghanistan


Brian Berenbach Edison, NJ


First, the only degree that is looked at in academia and industry is your last one. So if you can get into a good grad school and do well, that is all that counts. My son flunked out of NYU and just graduated harvard with honors. What he did was take courses non-matric, did well and was invited to matriculate.

I think that schools will look at your maturity. But the absolute best way to convince a good grad school to take you in is to take a few of their courses non-matric, befriend one of the instructors if you do well, and have them go to bat for you. Works every time.

Brian Berenbach
Vietnam Veteran

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