This time of year, I have a lot of consult calls with potential MBA applicants who are trying to assess whether or not they are competitive for their dream schools. Frequently, people are overly worried. Even if there are issues that need to be addressed, candidates can still get into the most competitive business schools.

  • Grades

MBA applicants with less than perfect grades are often convinced that they will be unable to get into selective business schools. Depending on the circumstances, and on the rest of their candidacy, lower grades are NOT a deal breaker. I have worked with many, many clients who were successfully admitted to M-7 schools, some with full scholarships, despite having sub 2.5 GPA’s.

  • Test Scores

Similarly, please don’t be overly discouraged if your test scores are below the average for your target schools. There are other ways to demonstrate your ability to handle the work. There is also increasing flexibility about which test to take, and even about whether or not to submit scores. The new (shorter!) GMAT, which is set to debut soon, is part of this movement towards increased flexibility about testing requirements.

  • Age/ Years of Work Experience

The average MBA student is 28 years old. People who are older or younger sometimes see this statistic and count themselves out. However, younger and older candidates can be highly desirable members of the class, potentially bringing valuable personal perspectives. Schools will want to understand why this is the right time to go back to school – but that’s true for all candidates. As long as MBA applicants offer relevant professional expertise, falling outside the average age range can actually be a helpful differentiator.  (It’s also worth noting that schools can’t, legally, make admissions decisions based on an MBA applicant’s age.)

  • “Pedigree”

There is a pervasive myth that you need to have gone to an Ivy, or worked for McKinsey, in order to get into a top business school. This is categorically false. Business schools are looking for MBA applicants with amazing experience, character, and potential – they don’t look down on people who didn’t come from the most exclusive institutions.

This is a tremendously advantageous time for MBA applicants. Schools are looking for people who will make the most of the transformational opportunities that business school provides. If you’re considering applying, please don’t let worry hold you back.


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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than $70 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
North Star Admissions Consulting