You Are Not Your GPA

You Are Not Your GPA

How do you quantify the characteristics that make you great, but aren’t measurable? How do you synthesize your personality in an easily digestible paragraph? How do you reveal the real YOU to somebody that is simply reading your application on paper? The topic of this blog post is all the qualifiable, not quantifiable, components of your application. I’m not talking about your GPA, your GMAT, or even your letters of recommendation (that is a whole different blog post). I’m talking about how you convey who you are that makes you unique. And many of you might find presenting this part of your application the most difficult of all.

Let me give you an example. Say you have a 700 GMAT and a 3.8 GPA. Congratulations! You are sitting pretty. So you write an essay that is very straightforward. You want to take this class, have this internship, and ultimately work here. We can learn a lot about you based on your work history and your academic and career trajectory. But let’s face it, a lot of people want to take that class, have that internship, and work there. And frankly a lot of people have a 700 GMAT and 3.8 GPA. What ELSE will make me think that YOU are unique, so you float to the top of the pile?

There is no single answer to this question, but here are some tips to help you get started.

First, create a personal profile. Like above, list your work experience, your education, your academic and career goals, and where you ultimately want to see yourself in 10 years. Then list your personal interests: things like writing, traveling, helping with charities, making films, teaching yoga, investing money, sailing, scaling ridiculously high mountains for no reason but to see the view, and/or eating, as examples. Next, start to connect the dots. What about these various elements of your past, present, and future intersect? Does your drive to reach CEO status have anything to do with your mountain climbing? Does your love of food and travel have anything to do with your unique capabilities to work in diverse team settings and to find accord among very different people? Does your history as a writer impact your ability to draft great marketing communications? Though there are many, many people who love to eat, climb mountains, work in marketing and who thrive in diverse settings, it is the particular combination of YOUR interests, history and path, that make up your unique story. It is how you tell this story that makes all the difference in how we view you as a potential MBA candidate.

If it helps, think about it from my perspective, that of an admissions officer. My goal is to find a collection of highly capable people that will not only succeed in this environment (as evidenced by things like GPA, GMAT, work experience and education) but who also contribute something to our community. I want to know who you are as a person. And if I can see you as a person, then I can picture you in our school, interacting with all the other diverse students, and contributing your individuality to the overall uniqueness of our amazing institution. This is the overall package: convincing us that you are not only capable, but that you are special and that we will be lacking something without your presence.

It is important to note that in our review of a typical MBA student, GMAT and GPA alone do not offer any consistent indication of success in the program. What I mean by this is, even if you have a 750 GMAT, this does not in itself indicate to us that you will succeed—that you will make good grades, find an internship, thrive in your study groups, and find a good job. It is the combination of knowing you are capable (again, your grades, scores, work experience and education), who you are as a unique person, and your commitment to McCombs, that offers us every indication of how well you’ll do. And remember, telling your story well can go a long way to convincing us that a so-so GMAT or GPA is nothing to worry about in the long run, because you have a clear sense of who you are and what you are capable of, as evidenced by the way you present yourself.

So if McCombs is really where you want to get your MBA, remember there is a human being on the other end reading your story, looking beyond the numbers and searching for a connection. Convey to us your passion and what makes you unique. We are excited to learn more about you! Show us you’re excited to get to know us too.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Brodie,
    Awesome post!
    I am applying for McCombs as well, yes I do have a low GPA but that is not really ‘Me’ to be frank
    This post re-convinced me to believe the same!

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