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Poor Grades

Can having too much fun in college kill your admissions hopes? The answer is not a simple yes or no.

It depends on exactly how much “fun” you had and how much of an impact it had on your grades. Here’s the way the grades will be viewed by the admissions board:

1. Scenario One: You have a 3.5 but your grades dropped one semester (not a deal breaker especially if you have solid GMAT, above 720, and strong essays, work experience and overall application.

2. Scenario Two: Too many tequila nights for four years resulted in a below 3.0 gpa.

My experience is that if you fall in this category, you will need to come up with some major damage control as well as reality check. The chance of being admitted at the top four MBA program is extremely unlikely.

Note that I didn’t say absolutely impossible.  You may want to widen the net when selecting schools and have a good two or three back up schools.

If every thing else is strong, I still think it will be extremly difficult to convince an admissions board to wink at four years of sketchy grades.

In any case, you will need to “own” your story. Take responsibility and proactively address what happened.

Avoid making excuses and make sure that the rest of your application does not suggest any maturity weaknesses.

If recommenders can reinforce your commitment, focus, drive and maturity, that’s a plus.

Your essays can also go a long way to show that you have grown a lot since your undergrad experience.

Finally, you can take a couple of courses and earn an A in each of them to show your discipline sitting through an academic course.

A final option, though a bit extreme, is taking a masters degree. I don’t recommend this unless you are naturally interested in the graduate program.

I wouldn’t just do a masters degree just for the sake of addressing the academic weakness as an undergrad. But if you have genuine interest in the subject and it fits with your long term goal, then go for it.

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Chioma Isiadinso

Chioma is a former Harvard Business School admissions officer and the CEO and Co-Founder of EXPARTUS, the first MBA admissions consulting company to use personal branding as a key part of the b-school application process. Chioma is the author of The Best Business Schools' Admissions Secrets, one of the leading books on how to successfully navigate the MBA admissions process.

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