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When applying to competitive business schools, students often worry about how they will stack up compared to other applicants’ GPAs and records of academic integrity.

Experts, including those at the Wharton School, say that “blemishes” on an application do not necessarily prevent a student from gaining admission to a prestigious business school.

Applicants with “blemishes” such as low freshman year grades or incidents involving cases of plagiarism or cheating are not necessarily out of the running for addmission to top business schools.

Associate Director of Wharton MBA Admissions Kathryn Bezella said she advises applicants to address such issues head-on.

“The worst thing for a student to do is to ignore something they have noticed about their application that they regard as an issue or weakness and hope we won’t notice,” she said.

“A hundred percent of the time, we will notice — it’s our job to notice.”

Instead of leaving the weakness unexplained, Bezella said applicants should focus on what they took away from the experience — how it changed their habits, practices, leadership style and what they learned about themselves from it.

“It’s all about how you handle it and what evidence you have to back up your claims,” she said, explaining that the admissions committee looks for maturity in the way candidates address blemishes on their applications.

Chris Volk, one of the 70 graduate assistants that help the full time admissions committee, said if the imperfection was a catalyst for personal growth or a positive life change, it is “definitely not something that’s going to put them [the applicant] at a serious disadvantage.”

“It’s a holistic approach,” he said. “Applicants are judged on several aspects — academic performance, leadership potential, essays, goals and recommendations.”

Jennifer O’Neill, Wharton graduate student and co-chair of Wharton’s Volunteer Admissions Committee, said it is important that the applicant’s explanation not be a series of excuses.

Instead, she said, they should take responsibility and focus on what they have done to overcome that mistake.

Scott Shrum, co-director of Veritas Prep MBA Admissions Counseling, said admissions officers are generally open-minded about such weaknesses.

“What they really want to know is if it’s a blemish or a pattern of behavior,” he said.

President of AdmissionsConsultants, Inc. David Petersam said what is important is giving the school reason to believe you won’t make the same mistake again.

“There is no such thing as the perfect person,” he said.

Bezella confirmed that admissions committees are not looking for “supermen and superwomen.”

“We want people who have made mistakes but who have also shown us how they’ve learned and grown from them,” she said.

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