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MBA Admissions Tip: Consider Pre-MBA Courses Before Applying

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As you prepare for the MBA admissions process, you might want to consider whether you should undertake additional undergraduate-level course work before you apply.

Who Should Take Additional Pre-MBA Coursework?

There are two reasons that it might benefit a candidate to complete additional coursework as part of their MBA application strategy. If your undergraduate transcript is devoid of quantitative coursework, the admissions committee might be concerned about the lack of data points as they assess whether you’re prepared for an MBA curriculum. Taking additional college-level coursework to demonstrate proficiency in this area can alleviate this concern. Of course, if your GMAT or GRE results show a strong quantitative score (above average for students at the schools you are targeting) then the need for additional course work diminishes. That said, it may still serve you well as you prepare for business school.

Candidates whose academic transcript and overall GPA is lower than the average for admitted students at their target programs can also benefit from completing additional college-level coursework. By building an “alternative transcript” reflecting strong grades in quantitative coursework, you can provide the admissions committee with another data point. And, if poor time management or misplaced priorities were a factor in your undergraduate performance, you can address this in an optional essay and suggest that your more recent coursework is a better reflection of your current priorities and academic abilities.

What Kind of Pre-MBA Courses Should You Take?

Classes to consider include statistics, calculus, economics, and accounting. These disciplines will provide some building blocks for the coursework you will tackle at the beginning of your MBA experience. Introductory courses in these areas are fine, but it’s important that you not simply re-take courses you already had in college. If there are entry-level courses on your undergraduate transcript, you may need to take the next most advanced course in a given area, or select a subject you haven’t taken before.

Traditional advice has been to undertake the coursework at the community college level, but online courses offered by reputable institutions, like Coursera, are also perfectly acceptable. Wharton and Yale offer courses, covering topics such as financial markets, financial modelling, accounting and operations, through Coursera. You can also consider coursework that has been designed specifically for candidates entering MBA programs, and these include GMAC Business Fundamentals, Harvard Business School’s Online Credential of Readiness (CORe), UC Berkeley and UCLA Extension courses online, and MBA Math.

The most important thing is that you earn “A” grades. The admissions committee will be much more interested in how well you perform than in the format or institution offering the coursework. Because the entire point of completing additional coursework is to provide a data point that will enhance your candidacy, it would defeat the purpose altogether if you were to earn “B” or “C” grades in these courses. Set yourself up for success by taking the courses in a fashion that is most convenient to you. Also consider your learning style, and what format would enable you to learn and do well.

How Many Additional Courses Should You Take?

By completing additional course work, your goal is to demonstrate that you academically prepared to enter an MBA program, as well as motivated to thrive in the MBA curriculum (while also being engaged in activities outside of the classroom). In general, the more data points you are able to provide, the more persuasive your additional coursework will be.

For applicants whose transcripts generally lack quantitative coursework, a single course might be sufficient–provided that your GMAT or GRE quantitative score is in the average range for students at a given school.

Meanwhile, for candidates who earned “B” or “C” grades in quantitative coursework during their undergraduate studies, you need to do some “transcript repair.” We would recommend completing 2-3 additional courses, and getting an “A” in each course.

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