Dear Mentor:

Should I get an MBA now or later?

I am currently enrolled at Boston University as an international student (Asia-Pacific). Because I take classes during the summer, I am able to graduate one year earlier than the normal academic process. I am a bit eager and I wish not to let time pass by, so I intend to go for an MBA directly after graduation. I know that top MBA programs require 4-5 years of work experience on average and, of course, there are exceptions for some outstanding granted college students. Let's take HBS [Harvard Business School] as an example. I have 650 on the TOEFL [Test of English as a Foreign Language] score and 730 on the GMAT [Graduate Management Aptitude Test], and I believe that these two score are above average. The only admission criterion that concerns me is my GPA; I will have only 3.2 - 3.4. I would like to know how the GPA is taken into consideration for admission. No working experience and low GPA puts me into a position that is not very optimistic, despite the TOEFL and GMAT scores.

Studies before Work, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Dear Studies before Work:

As you know, the selection criteria for MBA contain many items: What are the admission criteria for an MBA? Each MBA school uses its own proprietary weighting formula to arrive at the admissions decisions. A less than good performance of one criterion can be compensated by better than good performance on others, but other criteria do not eliminate from consideration the criterion on which you did not perform well.

Your GMAT score is around or somewhat above the average for HBS. We have seen candidates with a lower GMAT accepted at HBS, while other candidates with higher GMAT score rejected. Your candidacy, as we said above, is a combination of several criteria.

You are absolutely correct that top MBA schools expect the candidates to have had 3-5 years of work experience, in which they demonstrate extra-ordinary success in progressively challenging assignments. It is true that schools do make exceptions for outstanding candidates but, as you might concur with us, the definition of being outstanding varies across schools.

Oh by the way, we would take issue with the idea that you would let time pass you by if you did not enter an MBA program immediately upon graduation. An MBA school no doubt offers learning, but it is not the only place where future executives learn how to be successful. Sooner or later, you would have to prove your worth in the marketplace, regardless of the collection of degrees you have obtained. Top schools happen to think that you should have had exposure to and track record for what you are aiming for in the future, prior to committing yourself to an MBA. They obviously beg to differ from you from your views, and so do we!

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