If you got off to a rocky start in college or hit a rough patch in your studies, it doesn’t necessarily have to derail your B-school plans – even if it puts a dent in your GPA.
In fact, business schools love a good turnaround story. Pulling yourself back up from academic failure can demonstrate other qualities like being able to recover from adversity. If you change your trajectory after getting off to a bad start in college, that can become a compelling narrative in your application.
Not convinced? Let me tell you about someone who’s an extreme example of this.
You might have heard about people getting into top business schools after getting bad grades their first year of college, but this applicant took things a step further.
When she enrolled in university, her path had already been planned out for her by her parents. She took on a major her parents pushed her toward, even though it wasn’t one she was enthusiastic about.
She didn’t lack ability as a student, but she lacked that spark for what she was studying. So her grades fell. They fell so low that she was asked to leave the school.
What she did next was what defined her. She enrolled in another university and discovered her real passion, business. She embraced her new studies and graduated with a 3.8 GPA.
She also became active as a leader at her new school, getting involved in student groups and giving back to her community. Because of her experience of self-discovery, the painful challenge of figuring out what her real passion was, she became driven to find ways of helping other people navigate their own paths.
After finishing college, she went to work in industry and followed up her strong academic record by building a successful professional life in business.
Because she’d had to leave the first university she attended for academic reasons, she was worried business schools might not want to take a risk on her. She knew that she had an uphill battle to convince the adcom to admit her.
She therefore focused on building a strong track record across all aspects of the application. So by the time she applied to business school, she scored high on the GMAT and had a strong record of achievement outside of her initial academic hiccup.
But when she applied, she was accepted to several top 5 schools. Through her tenacity, her honesty, her clarity of vision and her ability to “own her experience”, she was able to turn the rough start to her college studies into the first chapter of a success story.
Getting kicked out of college doesn’t mean you can’t get into a top business school. If you’re applying to B-schools and have a trouble spot in your academic record, here are some pointers to keep in mind:
– Give a good reason for what went wrong. This is about taking ownership and responsibility of what happened and acknowledging your mistakes. For example, maybe you chose the wrong major the first time around.
– Emphasize your turnaround. Underscore the maturity you’ve shown, the good choices you’ve made, and the consistently high achievements you’ve had since. You don’t want to have questions about anything other than that initial blip – the blip should look like an outlier.
– Give back. Use your experience to help others find their paths, and use the painful lesson you learned to contribute something to your community.
– Make sure everything else checks out in your story. There’s no room for other gaps in your application. You want an exceptional work history, exceptional recommendations, exceptional GMATs, etc. – being average isn’t going to cut it. You also want to have a strong interview.
Getting kicked out of college or having a questionable patch in your academic record doesn’t mean you can’t get into a top business school. Use this adversity as the starting point for finding what drives you and building a strong record of accomplishment – that way what happened to you goes from just being a failure to being a failure that you turned into a success.