MBA Military Applicants

It’s no secret that business schools like to matriculate veterans.  If you have military service on your resume, however, are you leveraging it to maximize your odds of admission?

Serving in the US military is highly valued by business schools.  The leadership training alone is enough to create a highly desirable profile for an MBA applicant, but military service is far more than that.  It’s underrated how much discipline contributes to a successful MBA candidacy.  Of course the military is perhaps the best place in the world to learn how discipline folds into every corner of one’s life.  The military is not just about discipline at work.  They require discipline at all times.  If a commanding officer finds a soldier off work, even in civilian clothing looking unkempt, unshaven or behaving with conduct unbecoming a soldier, they face consequences.   Discipline is a deep and lasting part of military training which typically accompanies veterans throughout their entire lives.

As good as these qualities are, you’d think every military applicant would be a shoo-in at just about any school. 

What you must remember, however, is that b-schools typically compare applicants in buckets.  This means that as a military applicant, you are being compared mostly to other military applicants, not to the average applicant.  So while military service is indeed above average in many categories, in the category of leadership and discipline, you will likely be fairly average because your fellow military applicants will have a similar profile. 

When crafting your story, a common mistake military applicants make is to use too much military jargon.

It’s important to convince b-schools that you will be able to make a smooth transition from military service to the secular world.  The longer you have served in the military, the more skeptical b-schools will be about your making this transition.  The military has its own vocabulary, acronyms galore, and a mindset that can be sometimes perceived as myopic to a civilian admissions committee.  Try to speak in non-military terms about your post military and post-MBA career vision.   Certainly leverage stories from your experience, but translate them in to regular English for your b-school application.  The better you can demonstrate your ability to make such translations, the more ready you will be perceived to be for your MBA.

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