While you will never have a time machine to retake undergraduate courses and improve your GPA, there is something you can do to “repair” your transcript for MBA admissions. Transcript repair – aka “supplemental coursework” or “pre-MBA coursework” is the act of pursuing non-degree coursework to demonstrate your academic aptitude to the admissions committee, usually in the quantitative domain. Specialized courses in this domain are offered by MBA Math and Harvard Business School (HBS CORe), but many candidates may pursue individual courses at their local university.
Supplemental coursework can help offset a lower undergraduate GPA, lift a disappointing GMAT/GRE, or even make up for a lack of quantitative classes in your transcripts. Even if you’re confident in your academic history, aced your GMAT, or work with Excel every day, pre-MBA coursework can prepare you to rejoin the classroom.
With that in mind, the purpose of this piece is to better understand the use of supplemental coursework and to review the most popular options for MBA candidates looking to solidify their academic profile or brush up on skills they’ll need as students.
MBA Admissions Officers Weigh in on Supplemental Coursework
Shelly Heinrich, Associate Dean of MBA and MS-ESM Admissions at Georgetown McDonough, shares, “Admissions committees try to assess your ability to be successful in the quantitative portions of the classroom. There are many parts of the application that can do this like standardized tests or quantitative classes that you had to take in undergrad. However, sometimes candidates don’t test well or believe the test is not an accurate indicator of their quantitative ability. Additionally, some candidates weren’t required to take quantitative classes in undergrad due to their major. So, another alternative is supplemental coursework, like MBA Math, HBS CORe, or university courses in stats, accounting or finance that can help to prove to the admissions committee that you are ready. These courses can also help get you more familiar with the concepts in the quantitative core that typically occurs in the first semester. This will no doubt ease the transition back to school and make you more prepared.”
Even after making it through the taxing admissions process, accepted MBA applicants now have a new challenge to look forward to: the classroom. If you’ve been in the work force for years or if you haven’t taken quantitative courses since high school, you’ll need to shake off the academic cobwebs and get ready for the dynamic life of a student again. Fortunately, there are pre-MBA coursework prep options to get you ready for the rigor of the MBA curriculum.
“For candidates who have not had much exposure to quantitative concepts either in their academic or professional experience, supplemental coursework signals awareness and preparedness to the admissions committee. This type of coursework can also be a nice confidence builder or refresher before you jump into your first year of an MBA program,” says Amy Mitson, Co-Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at Dartmouth Tuck.
Major Players in Pre-MBA Coursework: MBA Math, HBS CORe & More
In this section, we offer information about the curriculum, structure, and cost of pre-MBA prep options. The major players in the pre-MBA prep space are essentially as follows: MBA Math, HBS CORe, and university extension options. MBA applicants and candidates alike have the opportunity to tailor their pre-MBA studies with flexible online options, whether they just want to take a refresher on some quant basics or to take a deeper dive into business principles.
MBA Math asserts the goal, “to be ready to start your core MBA courses.” They offer related online courses that participants complete at their own pace, taking an estimated commitment of 15 to 30 hours.
The course subjects of MBA Math are spreadsheets, finance, accounting, statistics, and economics. MBA Math then breaks these subjects down into individual lessons comprised of a varying number of exercises, which feature lectures, practice solutions and quizzes. More experienced participants can complete pre-quizzes to jump ahead to lessons they need. Courses wrap with post-quizzes to affirm users’ proficiency in a given subject.
The spreadsheets subject is comprised of 10 exercises to help you establish a base understanding of the tool. Finance is broken down into six lessons, including 16 exercises and solution methods such as manual formal sequences, spreadsheets, and financial calculators. Participants learn about the basics of single and multiple cash flows in lessons such as “Annual Time Value of Money” and “Constant Annuity / Perpetuity.” The economics subject includes eight exercises across marginal analysis and understanding supply and demand. The statistics subject spans seven lessons and 44 exercises, covering including the topics of: basic statistics, linear combinations, probability, regression, normal distribution, sampling, and inference. Finally, the accounting subject begins by covering three financial statements: balance sheets, income statements, and statement of cash flow. Then, the course explores the connection among these financial statements with a focus on recording systems.
|Subject||Lesson Name||# of Exercises|
|Finance||Annual Time Value of Money||4|
|Sub-Annual Time Value of Money||4|
|Net Present Value||3|
|Economics||Marginal Analysis I||3|
|Marginal Analysis II||3|
|Supply and Demand||2|
|Accounting||Balance Sheet I||6|
|Balance Sheet II||6|
|Statement of Cash Flows||9|
The courses are available in a one-year subscription for $149. Registration is easy and completed online on a short registration form. MBA Math also offers to send your transcripts to 10 MBA (or related MS) programs for free.
Harvard Business School’s Online Credential of Readiness (CORe) program is an online certificate program on the fundamentals of business. The median amount of time it takes to complete the courses is 150 hours. HBS Online’s course delivery features interactive teaching elements and collaboration with fellow CORe learners. Videos feature HBS faculty and guest lectures from business experts. While exercises can be completed at a student’s own pace, there are weekly assignments with deadlines. HBS Online offers CORe with two timeline options, delivering the same content and requirements in either a 10-12 week or extended 17-week run.
The CORe program consists of three courses—Business Analytics, Economics for Managers, and Financial Accounting—designed by HBS faculty, drawing on the case study method and culminating in a final exam. Business Analytics teaches the basics of data analysis. Economics for Managers covers how to develop pricing strategies, identify competitive advantages, and utilize analytical tools to understand what drives demand. Financial Accounting provides insights into business performance and introduces accounting standards.
|Business Analytics||Describing and Summarizing Data||5 hrs/week; 40 hrs total|
|Sampling and Estimation|
|Single Variable Linear Regression|
|Economics for Managers||Customer Demand: Foundations||6-8 hrs/week; 60 hrs total|
|Strategies for Assessing and Increasing Demand|
|Suppliers and Cost|
|Competition and Differentiation|
|Financial Accounting||The Accounting Equation||6-8 hrs/week; 60 hrs total|
|Adjusting Journal Entries|
|The Statement of Cash Flows|
|Analyzing Financial Statements|
|Forecasting and Valuation|
As individual purchases, each of the three courses costs $1,600. The three courses may be purchased in a bundle at a cost of $2,250. Scholarships are available for those who demonstrate financial need. Applicants need only be 18 years of age, proficient in English and committed to the workload.
Here’s a quick comparison between MBA Math and HBSCore:
|MBA Math||HBS CORe|
|Cost||$149||$1,600/course or $2,250 bundle|
|Structure||Self-paced||10-12 weeks OR 17 weeks, weekly assignments|
|Time Commitment||15-30 hours||Median of 150 hours|
|Grades||Transcripts, Course quiz scores on scale of 100||Pass, Pass with Honors, Pass with High Honors|
Pre-MBA Coursework in Extension Programs
MBA applicants looking to repair their transcripts or provide evidence of their quantitative skills also have the option to sign up for courses through extension programs. Popular options among MBA applicants include the Berkeley Extension and UCLA Extension. While Berkeley offers a Certificate Program in Business Administration and UCLA a Pre-MBA Certificate, we’re focusing on individual course offerings here.
Depending on availability, Berkeley Extension courses can be taken live online with a professor and fellow classmates. Some courses are only offered on a specified timeline without live sessions, though collaboration is still a hallmark of these offerings. Other courses can be started at any time and only need to be completed within a certain time frame.
In addition to in-person and hybrid learning, the UCLA Extension offers online courses through the learning management system, Canvas. Students taking online courses can log in to access course materials, including discussion boards, webinars, etc., and to communicate with instructors. Coursework is also submitted through Canvas.
Like many colleges, some courses require prerequisites. Be sure to check the details of each course before registering.
As mentioned above, MBA admissions will be looking for courses under statistics, accounting or finance. With that in mind, here’s a sampling out of the dozens of what Berkeley and UCLA offer in this vein.
|Course Title||Managerial Accounting||Principles of Financial Accounting|
|Format||Online, Fixed Date; 45 instructional hours||Online; 5+weeks|
|Course Title||Basic Corporate Finance||Mathematical Solutions for Businesses|
|Format||Online, Fixed Date; 30 instructional hours||Online or In-person; 5+ weeks|
|Course Title||Introduction to Statistics||Business Statistics|
|Format||Online, Start anytime; 90-180 days||Online; 11+ weeks|
As an MBA applicant, you have plenty of options to address academic or quantitative weaknesses in your candidacy and better prepare yourself for success in the admissions process and in business school. It just takes time and commitment to pre-MBA coursework like MBA Math, HBSCORe, or other online courses to build the skill set you need to score acceptances to your target programs. Best of luck in your studies!