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How to Transition from the Military to Business School

An MBA may be the most effective way to jumpstart a business career if you’re on your last tour of duty or recently separated.

It provides the concrete industry skills needed to complement your unique military perspective, brings job recruiters to you, and offers you two years to adjust to civilian life before diving into the corporate world.

Business schools are eager to recruit you into their ranks because of the tremendous set of experiences you bring to the classroom. On-campus recruiters are equally excited to interview you because of the teamwork and leadership you bring on “day one” of the job. Diverse fields such as consulting, financial services, marketing, and general management will all be open to you.

7 Military-Specific Tips to Get You Started on an MBA

An experienced admissions consultant can help you develop a personalized strategy that will position you for a successful application. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Research military-friendly schools and reach out to their veterans’ clubs.
  2. Enhance your application – if you are not currently deployed, consider volunteering.
  3. Prepare for the GMAT (the military will likely reimburse you for your first GMAT attempt if you are still on active duty).
  4. Consider taking an online or community college business class to demonstrate your interest in and aptitude for the subject matter.
  5. “De-jargon” your resume by eliminating acronyms and framing your achievements to highlight your actions and results.
  6. Narrow down the schools to which you will apply; aim for one or two “stretch” schools, two “target” schools, and one “safety” school based on your GMAT and GPA. Take advantage of fee waivers available to military candidates from many schools.
  7. Get your finances ready to accommodate two years without an LES.

3 Post-MBA Application Submission Tips for Those Transitioning from Military

  1. After you submit, the second stage of the application process, the interview, often causes a lot of angst. But whether you’re in a forward operating base in Afghanistan or twenty miles from the school’s admissions office, there are steps you can take to have a successful result. Business schools can often accommodate Skype and phone interviews. However, admissions staffs appreciate a campus visit to demonstrate your level of seriousness. If possible, visit before your interview, for your interview, or at the very least, mention plans to visit in your interview. Old-fashioned flash cards with typical questions are a great way to prepare for in-person and virtual interviews. There’s no substitute for practice.
  2. How do you go about deciding which school is the best fit for you once you’ve been admitted? Attend preview days, circle back with your connections at the schools, review published career reports for placement rates, locations, and salaries, and map out the financial considerations of each of your choices. Consider the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program as potential funding sources. Finally, if you have a partner or a family, involve them in the decision. Ensure that your family is on board with your plans and help them integrate into their new environment by connecting them with family resources such as a school partners’ or parents’ club.
  3. One final money-saving tip if you’re coming off of active duty: The military provides you with one last move back to your “home of record” (usually your address when you joined the military). The distance between your current duty station and your “home of record” is what the military will pay for, so if your school is a similar distance, you’ve earned yourself a free move.

Mariya Thompson is a Stratus MBA Senior Strategist, an HBS MBA graduate and a military spouse. 

About Stratus

Stratus Admissions Counseling is a full service admissions counseling firm distinguished by its team based, multi-step process ensuring each application is crafted for optimum impact. Our MBA counseling team has a representative from virtually every top 20 MBA program, enabling us to provide school-specific guidance.


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