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For MBB entry: Is the GPA more important or the school reputation?

Anonymous A

For MBB entry, do you think it is better to choose a university with a lower reputation but which gives you the chance for a great GPA or a better university with lower GPA? Does MBB consider that for top universities a somewhat lower GPA is normal or do they filter you out right away if your GPA is let's say lower than 2.0?

I hope my question is clear and that someone can shed some light on this issue. Thanks!

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Matthew
Expert
replied on 10/20/2017
Only ex-McKinsey Partner on PrepLounge (also Oliver Wyman) and McKinsey MBA, Experienced Hire and Undergraduate Recruiting Leader

This is a good question. The short answer is both matter. However, it’s important to understand how MBB approach University recruiting. Having led both Office, Regional and University (MIT Sloan) recruiting as a Partner at McKinsey, I was often times of asked why McKinsey recruited at certain schools and not others. The answer actually comes down to a combination of factors. But, the main factor is the # of quality candidates available from a particular University. Scale matters. While the top 5 candidates at University X may be just as good as the top 5 candidates at University Y, the top 50 candidates may not be as good. So, there are typically a group of Tier 1 and Tier 2 Universities for both Undergrad/Grad and MBA recruiting. The difference being that Tier 1 Universities have full time recruiters assigned to them where a single recruiter may cover 4 or 5 Tier 2 Universities.

So, the primary factor for MBBs is the University and the second factor is the GPA, especially for undergrads. For many MBA programs, you don’t even disclose your GPA. This is not to say that GPA does not matter. There is an minimum GPA or ‘ante’ if you will. But, it’s a bit like your SAT / GRE / GMAT score. As long as it meets the minimum, you are pass the bar. However, there is a little extra credit given for honors / awards / distinctive GPAs.

Anonymous B replied on 10/19/2017

The short answer is: I don't think MBB have a hard cut off for grades that is universially applied.

And here's the long answer: I don't think there's a single answer, as both universities and grades are kind of on a sliding scale, and not 'good' or 'bad' per se.

  • A university with a good reputation (in a country where that matters, more on that later) is definitely preferred to a university with a lesser reputation. However, bad grades at a good university will likely not get you invited either, with a few exceptions.
  • You imply that it is easier to get good grades at a second tier university. While it sounds logically, I am not convinced that this is factually true. I believe you have to work for good grades, no matter where you go. The problem is, if you have awesome grades at a second tier university, and nobody else from your year applies in consulting, it is hard to judge for the HR people whether you were actually good or not.
  • The consulting companies know their target universities really well, and often many alumni of those universities work in those companies: they can judge quite well where you stand in comparison to the class.

Now to the exceptions:

  • Mediocre grades at a target university
    • If you are at a target university, usually there's a good alumni network through which you can connect to alumni that currently work in MBB. They often can get you invited. (you still have to perform in interviews, but a letter of recommendation from an existing employee may help to get invited)
    • Some MBBs apply different standards to small target universities. If you know that at the university grades are curved, but it is really hard to get in, even people with lower GPAs deserve to be looked at. Therefore they may loosen hard GPA criteria and invite people with a GPA that they would not have invited from a large unknown university.

Judging your GPA example of 2.0, it seems like you have a German background. Germany is again different to the US, for example, as German universities don't have a clear reputation. Many people get assigned their place of study via ZVS, therefore the range of people is quite high. That's why you'll see companies in Germany usually asking for Abitur grades in addition to university grades - they want to see another piece of information on your performance to put you in perspective. And with most states now doing central high school testing, that is a good way to get around the university dilema mentioned above. In other countries, like the US, where the SAT counts a lot for getting into universities, your prior performance can be deduced by the name of the university you attend.

Eric
Expert
replied on 10/21/2017
Interview coach with detailed, actionable feedback (McKinsey & Google)

Definitely go for the university with better reputation. It's better for your long-term career whether at MBB or elsewhere.