Are you looking to find out how to explain a low GPA in MBA application? If you have learned how to get into an MBA program with low GPA, you will realize it isn’t an impossible task – you will just need to work a bit harder.

We will have a look at how you can leverage two main components of your MBA application – essays and interviews – to get accepted to your dream MBA program. 

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Article Contents
8 min read

What is low GPA vs competitive GPA? What application components can you use to address a low GPA? Sample Essay Explaining Low GPA How to explain a low GPA in MBA during an interview Conclusion FAQs

What is low GPA vs competitive GPA?

When it comes to the top business schools – we’re talking about getting accepted to the likes of Harvard University and Kellogg Business School – a GPA score of 3.4 and below becomes a “low GPA.”

MBA admissions officers at these schools are looking for candidates who not only demonstrate originality, charisma, initiative, and grit necessary to become business titans, but also have what it takes to complete their intensive curriculum.

Although they primarily select candidates with high GPA scores, it is possible to get into an MBA program with a GPA of around 3.4 if the rest of your application is outstanding!

What application components can you use to address a low GPA?

Let us have a look at how to explain a low GPA in an MBA application using two methods: essays and MBA interview questions. It’s important to note that while we give several ideas of where and how to talk about your low grades, choose only 1 of these options. You do not want to mention and explain your low GPA in every single application component. This means that if you choose to briefly address your low grades in the MBA personal statement, do not do so in your cover letter or statement of purpose.

GRE score or GMAT score – which one is better?

One way you can offset a low GPA score is by scoring high on your GMAT or GRE exams. GPA and standardized test scores are usually reviewed in tandem, so a high score can compensate for a low GPA.

As for which exam is better, the GMAT has always been considered to be the gold standard for the specific academic skills needed in graduate business schools. It is more expensive than a GRE and is offered in fewer locations worldwide.

Meanwhile, the GRE is considered the exam of choice for prospective graduate students of the arts and sciences. But, many top business schools say they want to diversify their applicant pool by accepting the GRE as an alternative in the admissions process.

Make sure to review the test requirements of each MBA program you are applying to and sit the exams that are required by your schools. If your school does not have a preference, research both exam formats and decide which one is more suitable for your skills.

MBA cover letter

Your MBA cover letter should tie together all of the pieces of your application, so the committee can get a clear picture of your overall qualifications for the program. Most importantly, your MBA cover letter must showcase right away that you are the perfect candidate for your chosen MBA program.

While your cover letter should not be solely focused on your low GPA, it can briefly mention any extenuating reasons your grades were jeopardized, such as an illness, a program change, or some other external circumstances. Remember not to play a victim. Instead, showcase what you did to overcome your setbacks. Example:

And while my grades suffered greatly at the end of my junior year of college due to my family's finical situation, I worked hard to complete that difficult year with an average of B- while working a part-time job to support myself and my younger sister.

Remember, a good cover letter won’t make up for a mediocre application packet, but it can still get the admissions committee on your side and make them want to look at the rest of your application.

MBA personal statement

This component of your MBA application is more important – when compared to other factors like your GPA and work experience. It is the one piece of application document where you can talk about who you are. It is basically where you get to answer the question “Tell us about yourself. Who are you?”

Talk about the details surrounding the cause and effect of your low GPA. Give the admissions committee a glimpse into what it was that made you fail, how you coped with the issue, and what you did to alleviate it. Once again, do not make this the focus on your statement, but briefly incorporate the setback that led to lower grades.

Most importantly, showcase how you emerged a stronger or wiser person from the experience. What steps did you take to get your grades up? What did you do to compensate for the lower GPA? What skills and lessons did you learn from the experience? Did you learn how to organize your time by buying a weekly planner? Did you learn how to ask for help and hired a tutor?

Showcase how thanks to the experience you are now the perfect candidate for the school. W Transform this setback into gains that will help you master the MBA too.

You can go through some MBA personal statement examples to get an idea of what to write in your version.

MBA statement of purpose

Your MBA statement of purpose (SOP) is a short essay of approximately 600 to 800 words. It is often a requirement for graduate school applications. It summarizes your intent behind applying to a particular university.

The SOP is a way for the admissions committee to understand more about you on a more personal level. Remember, they already have your accompanying documents to learn about your academic performance.

In the SOP, you can demonstrate that you are capable of attending and exceling in an MBA program despite your low GPA. Therefore, avoid blaming your college or professors for the low GPA. Instead, let them know about other achievements that can balance out the low score. Did you score exceptionally well on the GRE? Did you take additional certifications or courses after you graduated from college? Did you learn a new language? In other words, demonstrate what experience and knowledge you bring with you into the incoming class, what your colleagues can learn from you, and what you can contribute to the school’s on-campus culture.

Working on your statement of purpose? Check this out:

MBA essays

Most business schools ask for MBA admissions essays or MBA essay questions and answers as part of their application processes. And although they make them optional, you – as an MBA candidate with a low GPA score – should consider it as a critical component of your application where you can tell your side of your story.

You can use the essays to demonstrate your analytical and communication skills, which can definitely offset your low GPA score. Some MBA essay questions may directly ask you about setbacks, obstacles, and hardships you faced in your journey – use this as a chance to explain your low grades and how you compensated them via other avenues, like test scores, work experience, and so on!

Sample MBA Essay Explaining Low GPA

To the Admissions Office at [INSERT SCHOOL NAME],

I would like to thank you for taking the time to consider my application. I know that the application process is extremely competitive and that each candidate is carefully considered as per their achievements.

I understand that grades and previous academic performance are important in the process of assessing the ability of an applicant to succeed in the challenging coursework and academic environment of an MBA program. My GPA may be lower than that of other applicants, but I believe that I can continue to succeed despite the setbacks that were the cause of my low grades.

I would like to explain this situation and my low GPA in the hopes that it can be considered as part of my application.

During my freshman year of college, my parents and I had just moved to this country. The language barrier was the biggest obstacle in my studies. Though I knew colloquial English, studying in English was a total novelty to me. I struggled with completing my assignments and exams, and therefore received very low grades in my first two years of college.

But, thankfully, one of my professors noted this fact and suggested that I participate in the university’s cultural club for newcomers like me. I found my passion there and also made new friends with similar interests. The club helped ease the process of integration by introducing me into an environment of volunteering at soup kitchens, participating in fundraising events, helping each other with homework or interview preparation, hosting networking events, and providing me with a lively and warm community to flourish in.

My grades began to improve immediately and, more importantly, I learned that it takes time, patience, and applying myself to make – and see – a change in myself as well as in others.

Ever since I have had an outstanding track record and achieved academic excellence – as you can see from my GMAT scores.

I hope that you will be able to understand my situation and also know that I have become wiser from this experience.

Thank you very much for your consideration and I hope I will become a part of the student body in your esteemed institution.


Just remember that if you think it doesn’t convey your story as well as you wish it would, you should find the best MBA essay consultant to help you create that perfect essay.

How to explain a low GPA in MBA during an interview

If you have a low GPA and are invited to an interview, this means that the admissions committee most likely does not mind your lower grades. This means that you must learn how to prepare for your MBA interview and get ready to answer some of the most common MBA interview questions. Be prepared to talk about your lower grades and any other potential red flags.

When asked about your lower grades, always be truthful but try to end your answer with how you have made up for lower academic performance. Mention your high GMAT or GRE score, discuss any additional training you have partaken in, and discuss your work awards or publications. Offset your bad grades with your achievements.

Take some time and use MBA mock interviews to practice your answers. Focus on what your answers will be when they ask you to explain the specifics of your low GPA.

Finally, remember that the factors that interviewers consider when arriving at a final decision about your eligibility for their MBA program include poise, maturity, motivation for wanting their particular MBA, understanding of the MBA role in the business field, and perceived potential to becoming an effective MBA holder in the business world.

Preparing for your interview?


A lower GPA is not the end of your MBA dreams! Grades and scores are not the end all be all of the admissions. What the admissions committee wants to see, when it comes to your lower grades, is that you can take responsibility and remedy your mistakes with action. Use your MBA application components and the interview to show that you are a mature, responsible adult who can be accountable for past mistakes and setbacks. This will impress them more than an A+ on your academic essays and exams!


1. Can you get an MBA with a low GPA?

Yes, you can get an MBA with a low GPA. But, you will need to try harder than your fellow candidates to prove that you are worth that seat in the business school. The best way to do it is to leverage opportunities like essays and interviews.

2. What is the best strategy for addressing a low GPA?

The best strategy is to opt for a two-pronged attack: write a great essay and prepare to explain the gap in an interview. You should aim to explain in clear words – both written and spoken – how you have become a better person from the experience. The lessons, qualifications, and personal growth should be the core message you need to get across to the admissions committee.

3. Do I need to submit letters of recommendation with my application?

Yes, make sure to check how many MBA recommendation letters are required by your schools of choice.

4. When is the best time to apply?

The best time to apply is during Round 1 of applications.

When applying for an MBA with a low GPA, you need to improve your chances of landing that seat by applying during the first round. That is when the business schools still have a lot of available spaces in their classes. They tend to accept more during the first rounds of applications than during the second or third rounds when the spaces are more scarce and they tend to lean towards the highest qualified candidates.

5. Where should I include information about my volunteering and extracurricular activities?

The best place to describe your volunteering and extracurricular activities is to include them in the personal statement or other admissions essays, as well as your MBA resume.

6. Does a very high GMAT or GRE score offset a low GPA score?

Yes, it can, but you need to remember that the admissions committee looks at your application as a whole. They don’t make their decisions on one set of qualifications or certifications. And so, the high GMAT or GRE scores will contribute to increasing your chances of getting that MBA seat as part of the total package that includes your essays, personal statements, resume, work experience, letters of recommendation, and the low GPA, of course.

7. Should I take the GMAT or GRE for my MBA application?

The GMAT is an exam that was specifically designed for business school applicants. The GRE, meanwhile, is a test that can gain students admittance to graduate programs across almost all subjects – including the MBA.

Although traditionally the GMAT has taken precedence over the GRE you should research your business school of choice to find out if they have a preference or tradition of accepting one over the other.

8. Should I do an online MBA program?

Some leading universities – like the University of Massachusetts Boston – offer their MBA programs online. If you feel that an online degree program will help you meet your professional and personal goals you can choose to join a business school with an online program that will support your ambitions.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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