For students looking towards a graduate degree, earning a high undergrad GPA is a great achievement. But untimely circumstances like family issues or money problems can make maintaining that high GPA challenging. For those who want to earn their MBA, a low GPA isn’t a death sentence. More colleges are recognizing that a high GPA isn’t the only characterization of a good candidate for an online MBA program. Programs accept “splitters,” or applicants who base their submissions on other criteria like GMAT scores, work experience and faculty recommendations—not just their undergrad GPA marks. Read on to if you’re interested in finding the best online MBA programs for students with a low GPA, or are looking for ways to offset a low GPA on your business school application.
Jared Barlow is the Senior Associate Director of Graduate Admission and Recruitment Strategy for the W.P. Casey School of Business at Arizona State University.
Alix Cirac has degrees in journalism and political science, but is fortunate enough to coach volleyball as a “real job” as the Assistant Director of the Northern Nevada Juniors Volleyball Club. In addition to coaching, she’s also spent the last ten years working with student-athletes on college prep, including program research, standardized test strategy, tutoring, time management, and organizational skill improvement.
Graduate-school acceptance is not an objective science; rather it’s a subjective art. Few institutions have specific GPA minimums, but looking into each program’s incoming class GPA averages can be helpful in determining how low GPA requirements may go. While top-25 programs have GPA norms of higher than 3.5, there are many other regional programs that accept applicants with average GPA scores of 2.5 or more. It’s also important to note that many programs accept students with low-end GPAs when they demonstrate supplemental positives in test scores, work experience, or personal essays. Check out our data below to search for AACSB accredited online MBA program GPA requirements.
|Name||Minimum GPA Required||Location|
We’ve compiled the list below to make it easier for prospective students to learn which business schools could provide the best chance of acceptance with a low GPA. Students can also see what average tuition and fee costs are at each school, and learn how many graduate students apply, are accepted and eventually enroll to help decide which business school might be the best choice for earning their online MBA.
|Rank||College Name||Expand||Location||Minimum GPA Required||GMAT
|% of Graduate Applicants Admitted||% of Graduate Applicants Enrolled||Tuition and Average Fees (out-of-state)||Tuition and AverAge Fees (in-state)||Cost per Credit Hour (out-of state, part-time graduate students)||Cost per Credit Hour (in- state, part-time graduate students)|
To be considered for this list, schools must meet the following requirements:
Qualifying schools are ranked based on a variety of data points, including:
Data for this ranking was collected from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) and individual business school websites.
Online MBA programs’ admissions officers are interested in learning about the people behind the applications they receive. They will consider all aspects of the application, but in reality will only spend between 15 and 20 minutes before deciding whether or not to invite an MBA candidate for an interview. There are many strategies students can use to offset a low GPA. From high GMAT or GRE scores to compelling personal essays, here are some traditional and more creative ideas for boosting your value on your online MBA application.
No matter which business school you dream of attending, keep an open mind. There are plenty of online MBA programs at smaller colleges and universities that still offer a high-quality and affordable learning experience, as well as excellent networking opportunities in the business community. Check for accreditation standards: there are more than 500 AACSB accredited schools in the U.S.
Some online MBA programs are more open to accepting splitters than others. You can find success stories of low-GPA admits by closely researching individual programs, or by looking at online forums like Beat the GMAT or GMAT Club to find feedback on open-minded admissions committees.
Be honest. A compelling personal essay that describes your life, including why you might have a low GPA, might show program heads that you’re strong, persistent and able to overcome challenges. Check for colleges that accept video essays and get creative. Work experience helps, too, especially in a business- or management-related field.
GMAT scores are the keys for splitters to find success in getting accepted. Consultants at Admitbrain.com have dedicated a full section of content on how test scores can offset low GPAs, including which percentiles counteract each other. There are many resources available for test prep, too; from free practice questions at Khan Academy to the official GMAT Mini Quiz.
If you have a low grade from college in statistics or calculus, it might be worth retaking those classes, or even picking up an additional course at a local community college to improve your skills. Admissions officers may see this as a sign of commitment to your program.
Letters of recommendation from former professors or superiors can describe you in a way that you can’t describe yourself. Texas A&M University Corpus Christi recommends demonstrating relationships with former faculty who can attest to your character.
According to Jen Weld, a former admission-committee member, second- and third- time applicants’ submissions get stronger and stronger. They also demonstrate strength and an unwillingness to quit, which are great qualities for candidates to show.
Jared Barlow is the senior associate director of graduate admission and recruitment strategy for the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
Here are the hints and advice Jared gives for students who want to earn their MBA despite a low GPA:
We take a holistic approach to the review of each application submitted. We will review a candidate’s GPA in concert with the rigor of the degree program completed. We will also review their resume and work history, letters of recommendation, essay responses, test scores and interview notes as part of the admission committee evaluation.
GPA is usually the only part of a candidate’s application they cannot change. What has happened in the past due to their GPA is now a historical record. They can however, change their future. There are multiple components of the MBA application they can control to become a more competitive applicant. They can control how they study, prepare, and perform on their GMAT/GRE exam. They can expand their work experience and resume. They can build their network, cultivate strong working relationships, and search out mentors or other individuals that can provide strong letters of recommendation. They can take time to fine tune and develop their essay responses for each MBA program for which they wish to apply. If there is one part of their application that is not as strong, such as a GPA, the candidate can tell a story with the other parts of their application to overcome weaknesses by showing additional strengths and achievements since graduation.
Candidates can make an impression on the admission committee by taking the time to clearly articulate their story through their essays and/or interview. This will help the committee better understand where they came from, what happened in their undergrad experience to cause the low GPA, and what they have learned and achieved since they graduated. Strong essays and interviews in combination with competitive GMAT/GRE test scores, work experience and letters of recommendation can help a candidate overcome these obstacles.
Having a high GMAT/GRE test score is one tool the admission committee uses to help determine whether candidates have the ability to perform consistent with their peer group in the classroom.
A strong GMAT/GRE score is one that is higher than the class profile average. Many MBA programs publish their current MBA class profiles. Candidates should review theses class profiles to see how they measure up. While class profiles are not minimums for admission, they provide candidates with a good benchmark to help prepare a competitive application. Candidates that are not as strong in one area, such as their GPA, may be able to overcome the weakness by achieving a test score above the class profile average providing the Admission Committee with a view of their current abilities, as opposed to a GPA from 5-10 years ago.
Institutions should be open to “splitter” students that can demonstrate strong quantitative and verbal reason by way of GMAT/GRE scores. The ability to perform well on the GMAT/GRE helps demonstrate that a candidate isn’t just their former GPA, but a culmination of experience and potential. A strong GMAT/GRE score shows this current and future potential and helps to overcome concerns about a lower GPA from a candidate’s past.
Work experience is a very important component of a candidate’s resume and overall MBA application. At W. P. Carey, we look for individuals who have graduated with their undergraduate degrees and can return to the classroom and shares their experiences with their peer group.
At W. P. Carey, Business is Personal©. We look at each candidate and their application holistically. We want to understand why each candidate wants to earn an MBA, what they hope to learn by pursing an MBA, and want they want to do afterward. Candidates stand out when they can articulate personal and meaningful examples to those questions during their essay and interview responses. Candidates that try to write what they think the admission committee wants to hear are less successful in the admission process. Be yourself and tailor each MBA application to the requirements of the school.