Military applicants are extremely well regarded by MBA programs because of their leadership experience, discipline, ability to work with a team, and commitment to goals. Admissions committees also know that recruiters view military applicants very positively because of those same attributes. But to make your application as compelling as possible, you should be aware of some important factors. Note that military applicants are usually compared to other military applicants, and many schools have admissions readers who specialize in that population, so you need to make sure you stand out from others with similar backgrounds, not just from the general applicant pool.
Minimize Your Use of Jargon
Military resumes are often replete with acronyms and code words that only other military personnel will understand. Keep in mind that even if an admissions reader specializes in military applicants, this does not necessarily mean that they have served in the military themselves. Schools will review all your application materials to get a sense of how you will communicate in a classroom of civilians, and resumes or essays that are too full of jargon send a message that you might not be able to participate effectively in such a setting. In addition, as with all applicants, admissions readers care more about the impact of what you did than about any acronym that might go along with it. Check out our blog post on building the ideal resume for your MBA application.
Be Thoughtful about Your Career Goals
Much of what you have done in the military might not translate directly into private sector career goals. For example, investment banking does not require expertise in diffusing (literal) bombs. Rather than thinking about how your subject matter expertise relates to a specific career goal, think about how your skills relate to it. Have you excelled at strategic planning? What about at motivating and turning around a lackluster team? Have you learned to be calm in a crisis or to navigate ambiguity? Have you had an impact in a leadership role? These skills are applicable to many private sector careers. For tips on how to showcase your capabilities in your personal statement, download our free Personal Statement Guide.
Highlight Your International Experience
Many military applicants have spent time in a foreign country (and in some cases, in multiple foreign countries), and this is true of you, you can use that experience to your advantage in your application. Reflect on what living in or visiting each country was like (especially when you left base and were interacting with locals). What surprised you? What impressed you? Did you have any experiences that changed your perspective or challenged long-held assumptions? Simply the fact that you have international experience will not be enough on its own to impress the admissions committees. We encourage you to think about and convey how the experience(s) shaped you.
Reach Out to Veterans Associations on Campus
Most business schools have a vibrant veterans association whose members can provide you with tremendously detailed information about the program and the transition from military service to MBA student. We strongly urge you to connect with representatives from those organizations. We hear from our military applicant clients that those conversations are some of the most generous, detailed, and helpful they have in the entire MBA application process.
Do Not Neglect Extracurriculars
When you are deployed or your life is consumed by a demanding job that makes a big difference in the world, you can easily gloss over the experiences you have outside work. Admissions committees, though, care about who you are more broadly, not just about what you do for your job. If you have not had time to participate in any formal extracurricular activities, think about anything you have done at work that went above and beyond your job description. For example, have you coached your enlisted soldiers to help them get their GEDs or taught them basic financial management skills? These types of activities, when mentioned in essays, can showcase skills beyond the ones you display in your job and give the admissions committee a more well-rounded view of your candidacy.