Recently, SMF has experienced a flood of e-mails. We are very appreciative of the interest! It seems to me, there are two things of which most of you are concerned.
First, you are all very apprehensive about your GMAT scores.
Many of you write to us and ask about whether or not your test score is competitive for the program. As we mention in our FAQs, Fisher recommends that students score at least a 600 to be considered minimally competitive. What does this mean? I can tell you what this doesn’t mean…it doesn’t mean that if you score below a 600, you will not get accepted. It is a general guideline that we suggest, not a hard cut-off point.
Additionally, many of you have noticed that our average GMAT score is a 667. Again, this does not mean that just because you are below the average, that you will not get into the program. I blame elementary school teachers for this issue. In elementary school world, average is a baseline minimum. If you were below average, you were considered to be “bad.” I often pity students who fear they have no chance of getting into a school because they are below the “average.”
Remember, what “average” means in the real world. If you dust off your fifth grade math book, you will see that an average is (X1+X2+…+Xn)/n. Unless every student in the current SMF class scored exactly 667 (which I assure you they did not as it is impossible to receive that score and there was a RANGE of scores in the class), then you have to assume that some students scored above and others scored below the average. So yes, students who score below the average did receive admission! Instead of focusing on the average, look at the range of scores. At Fisher, we tell students the average score and we ALSO send them the middle 80% range. For the 2012 SMF class profile, the average was a 667 and the middle 80% of the class scored between a 570 and a 730.
On the other hand, please don’t assume that just because you are above the class average that you will be guaranteed acceptance. Many students write to us and tell us they have scores well over 700 and they sound pretty confident that they will enter the class. Test scores aren’t everything. In this finance program, it’s not all about numbers.
Second, most of you are fixated on the letters, ‘G-P-A’.
What’s the minimum GPA required for the program? If I have a 3.5, I can get into the SMF, right?
The above questions are just examples of what we receive in our inbox. Basically, you want to know if you are competitive for the program. The SMF program recommends that students have a minimum 3.0 GPA to be considered minimally competitive. Sound familiar? The 3.0 minimum is a policy set by The Ohio State University’s Graduate School. You’re below the 3.0 minimum? In rare cases, if the program is interested in a candidate, the program can petition the Graduate School to admit the student. You as the prospect CANNOT request this petition, but later on I will tell you how you can improve your chances of getting a petition request. (NOTE: This is not a guarantee!)
Your GPA is above 3.0, but below the average GPA (currently 3.45)…look at the paragraph about the average GMAT. Same rules will apply.
One thing about GPA that is worth mentioning is that (at least at Fisher) admissions committees tend to look at trends. What does this mean? For more detailed information, please refer to a blog post written about a year ago called, “The Minimum.” Basically, admissions committees tend to look at your academic career overall. Someone with a 3.1 who started out poorly, but ended up getting really good grades at the end will favor over someone with the same GPA who started out performing fantastically, but decided not to do well at the end of his/her academic career. Yes, each case is different, but you can explain yourself!
This last point, explaining your situation, brings us to the ending message: the GMAT, your GPA, etc are not the ONLY thing that matter in Fisher’s graduate student selection!
Don’t get the wrong idea, grades and test scores are important, but the point is that there are other factors that play into your application review. We understand that you are not a number (even if we are a large school and this is a finance program); we look at your application as a WHOLE!
You ask, “What can I do to stand out?” Honestly, think less quantitatively (yes, it’s difficult because you’re interested in finance) and more qualitatively. Your grades are not going to change drastically at this point. You may choose to re-take the GMAT; this is a personal decision and the admissions committee won’t make that determination for you. You can control your essays; use the essay as a tool to really show case WHO YOU ARE! Use Essay #1 on the application to explain your GPA, or to tell us what you’ve done in your life so far. Here is a chance for you to tell us that you are not just a 650 GMAT, but a great person who will do well in finance and the SMF.
The important take-away is that we cannot truly evaluate you by looking just at your GMAT scores and/or GPA. There is a lot more to an SMF student than just numbers. The only way SMF admissions can tell you whether or not you can join the program is for you to submit a COMPLETE application. Why are you still waiting? Apply today!