You have decided to pursue an MBA and start the business school research by focusing on programs that are well-known or have been ranked highly like Harvard Business School, Kellogg, or Wharton. But then you are concerned about these top schools’ average GPA of 3.7, slightly higher than yours. How do you know that you are good enough? How do you know that you have good chances of getting accepted? In this article, we would help you fully evaluate the GPA element for admission and also tips and tricks you can use to access for your own chances.

1. Is there a minimum GPA for business schools? 

There is no minimum GPA requirement for MBA admissions. Most of the top business schools such as Harvard and Stanford do not mention a minimum standard for GPA requirement for admissions. The reason for this is that they make exceptions for students who have exceptional profiles but low GPA scores. Like your GMAT score, your GPA is just one factor in a variety of admissions requirements, and different schools have different expectations when it comes to your undergraduate grades.

Such students will also probably have high GMAT scores to make up for their low GPA. However, it is safe to assume that to not hinder your application process or cut down your chances of getting into top universities, your GPA should be above 3.   

Average GPA for top 20 business schools 

The average GPA for the top 20 schools normally fluctuates around 3.6. However, if you want to be safer, your score should be at least 10% higher than the average. And If your GPA is not competitive, you can make a stronger case for your application with a higher GMAT score.

Therefore, to assist you in your search for the average GPA of top business schools, we have compiled a list of the average GPA and GMAT of the incoming MBA students of the top 20 business schools updated for the year 2020. 

MBA program 

Average GPA

Average GMAT

Stanford University 



Harvard University 



Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan) 



University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) 



University of Chicago (Booth) 



Yale University 



Northwestern University (Kellogg) 



New York University (Stern) 



Dartmouth College (Tuck) 



Cornell University (Johnson) 



Columbia University 



University of California Berkeley (Hass) 



Duke University 



University of Southern California ( Marshall) 



The average GPA of incoming MBA students of the top 50 business schools ranges from 3.4- 3.7

2. The importance of GPA in MBA admission 

Universities use the GPA as a measure of your engagement in learning and willingness to work hard to meet academic standards and expand your knowledge. Your GPA is important because it provides a comprehensive look at your academic strengths and weaknesses and your ability to challenge yourself. Most schools fairly stress the same importance on GPA and standardized test scores when evaluating the applications. It matters a lot and will be taken into consideration when determining whether you have a chance of getting into a highly reputed Business School or not.

At schools that don’t require standardized test scores, the GPA takes on an even more critical role in your application.

Let’s put your GPA into the picture. Here are six components of an MBA application:

  1. Undergraduate GPA 
  2. GMAT Score
  3. Work experience
  4. Letter of Recommendations
  5. Essays
  6. Extra-curricular activities
  7. Awards and achievements

Six components can be classified into the categories:  

Qualitative (show intellectual aptitude) 

  • GMAT Score
  • Work experience
  • Undergraduate GPAs 

Quantitative (interpersonal skills, personality) 

  • Letter of Recommendations
  • Essays
  • Extra-curricular activities
  • Awards and achievements,

The role of qualitative factors becomes prominent when quantitative factors become difficult to compare. 

Therefore, a GPA is critical for admission into top business schools. For the MIT-Sloan School of Management, the average GPA is very high at 3.6. For each 0.10 change in GPA, the acceptance rate changes by roughly 1%.

3. How to compensate for a low GPA in the application? 

Nailing the optional essays. 

Essays are the most critical part of your application package. In fact, they are the heart of the application package that reveals the humane side of the application which other parts of their application package cannot do. So if you have a low GPA in your application, an additional essay is where you bring to light your story behind it and help to explain your academic ability. You can get more insights about the essays in our following articles: 

Most schools in the top 15 or 20 will give you the opportunity to answer an optional essay. Some of them would leave it wide open and say if there is anything else you want to tell us or some would say if there are any weaknesses in your application that you wish to address 

Here is the structure of an optional essay that we recommend you follow:

Acknowledge your case

You should start telling the committee that you are fully self-aware of your lower score than the average and you want to take the time to address why that is in this essay. 

Explain what happened

This is different from making excuses.  You can show your responsibility for what happened while providing an explanation for why that was. 


This is the part that a lot of people miss. If you have a low GPA in college, you should reflect on what you have learned about yourself from that experience. You should ask yourself what the learning process was, why you are stronger from that failure, or from the weaknesses in your application. 


Despite the low GPA, present the data that shows that your performance in business school is not a concern.  This can involve doing the quantitative work at work, succeeding in performing quantitative tasks in a professional environment. Here is the paragraph that demonstrates your ability to work with numbers and be able to split out the results and generate those results to benefit your company or clients. 

Showing strong GMAT and GRE scores 

More than 7000 business and management programs worldwide accept the GMAT Exam Score. This has been the test of choice of the world’s business leaders for admissions into leading business schools. A GRE is not suggested because most universities are used to comparing GMAT scores for an application as they are more comfortable interpreting the GMAT scores.

The Kaplan Test Prep survey of B-school Adcoms has shown that a low GMAT score is the biggest reason to turn down an MBA applicant. 51% of the admissions officers agreed with the same conclusion, while 28% pointed to a low undergraduate GPA as the second most relevant indicator for MBA admissions.

As you can see, if you have a low GPA but a high GMAT score, you can still make a strong case for your application.

However, you should keep in mind that your GMAT needs to be at least 10% higher to make your application more competitive. For example, the average GPA at Harvard is 3.71 and you are at 3.3, which means you have to show a higher GMAT than the average. You need to be at least 10% higher than average on every single criterion. The question here is that the university normally has three deadlines, would you be able to improve your test score by 35% if you applied later?

Excellence in work. 

As the job market becomes more competitive and employers have graduated from a wide variety of schools to choose from, organizations are looking very closely at MBAs’ work experience.

When making their admissions decisions, business schools place a high value on an applicant’s relevant professional experience. As such, showing strong recent career work performance will go a long way toward convincing committee members that you have what it takes to succeed in an MBA program.

It would be a plus point if your work experience is at a well-known national or internationally known company which means the admissions team would be likely to realize. If you ask your supervisor for a letter of recommendation, ask that the individual specifically address your quantitative abilities and your ability to multitask in order to further mitigate your low GPA. 

This work experience would highlight that you can do well in analytical situations which helps in leveraging your low GPA.

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