More and more people these days seek to enhance their career opportunities by earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, which can translate to higher salaries, opportunities for promotions, or the skills to become an entrepreneur and start a new business.
When applying to a business school, one of the important metrics that admissions committees consider is an applicant's undergraduate GPA. Although having an excellent grade point average (GPA) certainly helps with being selected for a program, other features of an MBA application such as GMAT score and professional work experience will come in to play.
Earning a bachelor's degree with a 4.0 is certainly an applaudable achievement. But failing to get straight A's will not necessarily ruin your chances at getting into a respectable MBA program. Getting better than 3.5 (B+ to A-) for a cumulative grade point average is typically the range that these schools are looking for. The very best and top-rated programs will demand a higher GPA than mid- or lower-tier ones.
Although GPA statistics for many of the top business schools are not officially published, research by F1GMAT shows that for the top 20 rated programs, the average GPA lies somewhere between 3.5 and 3.7. They also find that graduating with a GPA of 2.7 or less seriously hurts a candidate's chances of getting accepted to a reputed program.
Some examples of average GPA's for new MBA classes include Stanford University's Graduate School of Business which boasted an average GPA for incoming students of 3.73. The average GPA for the incoming class at Harvard Business School has been 3.68, while University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, MIT Sloan and Columbia Business School all took in students with an average of 3.50.
Although GPA is important, a 2012 survey of business school admission officers by Kaplan Test Prep found that it is only the number two admissions killer for getting into an MBA program. The number one factor was found to be an inadequate GMAT score. In Kaplan's survey, 51% of respondents listed the GMAT as the number one hurdle when applying for an MBA.
The best business schools generally demand the highest test scores, and among top-tier programs, the average score is between 720-730. A perfect score of 800 is certainly not required to gain acceptance to a top school, but it can certainly make an applicant stand out. Poets & Quants have compiled a list of average GMAT scores for some of the top MBA programs in the United States.
Does GPA Matter to an MBA Program?
Excelling in academics serves as a solid foundation, but a business school is geared toward real-world professional outcomes. As a result, many schools value relevant work experience in their decision-making process. Executive MBA (EMBA) programs, in particular, are designed specifically for those who have been in the workforce for a number of years in management or leadership roles and who are typically older students. EMBA admissions know that academic records will be stale and put a much heavier weight on work experience and the professional networks applicants can bring to the table.
Part-time and EMBA programs are designed to allow full-time employees to earn their MBA while pursuing their degree by offering evening and weekend classes. Often times, employers will pay for a student's tuition in full or in part if they believe that their new degree will make them a more valuable asset to the company.
The Bottom Line
Getting into a top-ranked MBA program is highly competitive, but the results can be very rewarding in terms of financial success and career mobility. Having a good undergraduate grade point average is certainly an important factor that admissions committees consider; however, GPA isn't the whole story. A strong GMAT score and evidence of relevant work experience is also very important. Admissions decisions are made by looking at all those metrics and more, including personal essays, letters of recommendation, and one-on-one interviews.