In 2017, MBA Data Guru conducted a study and found that tier-one schools (including schools like Harvard, UPenn’s Wharton Business School, and Stanford) accepted 23% of military applicants while only accepting 14% of regular applicants. For tier-two schools, the acceptance rate rose to 39% for military applicants versus 25% of regular applicants.
Despite having test scores and GPAs lower than the typical business school applicant, top business schools are eagerly seeking students with military backgrounds.
The reason is that military experience trains people to develop leadership skills, discipline and the ability to make decisions under pressure. These attributes increase a person’s ability to succeed in business after graduating with their MBA.
If you have a military background, then you may have an advantage when it comes to getting into and succeeding in an MBA program. In fact, some universities are even providing significant financial assistance to attract military candidates.
This article explores how military experience can improve your odds of success in business school and also looks at some of the best MBA programs for students with a military background.
How Military Training Sets You up for MBA Success
While military veterans might not have the same educational background as other students, they do possess other valuable skills and experiences. One of the most noticeable traits that students with military background possess is strong leadership skills.
In the military, people can command squadrons with over a dozen members or even manage a team of hundreds. Leaders need to develop a strong understanding of what motivates their subordinates to get them to do what they need to do.
Many individuals might think that military leadership is based on rigid rules and harsh discipline. However, in reality, military personnel often have a good deal of autonomy when it comes to making decisions, which makes the experience similar to leading a team to achieve business results.
Another important skill that the military helps people develop is strategic thinking and the ability to make quick decisions. Planning and executing an operation requires coordinating different resources and often these exercises need to be performed under highly stressful circumstances.
Josh Dow is a former marine and he describes how he planned his job search and other tasks like a military operation.
Finally, military training develops MBA program networking skills. When required to perform a task under pressure, people in the military often have to reach out to and coordinate with other people.
Networking skills also apply to business situations and being able to effectively reach out to other people and build your network can greatly increase your opportunities for success.
The Best MBA Programs for Military Officers
When applying to MBA school, students should look for a reputable school that provides a quality education, just like any other MBA student. However, other factors may come into consideration include networking opportunities, financial assistance for veterans and also veteran support groups within the school.
Educational funding from the post-9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program have made it easier for military veterans to finance their MBA education. In fact, veterans that meet the right qualifications can have as much as 80-100% of their tuition covered by these programs.
Popular magazines like US News and World Report provide an annual study listing the best colleges and universities in the country for students to attend. However, these lists are geared toward regular students and not people with military experience.
Military MBA performed an analysis of top MBA programs to find the ones that offered the best value to military veterans. This resource identifies 21 out of the top 40 MBA schools from US News and World Report that provide significant funding in the form of tuition waivers for veterans.
The highest-ranking schools provided 80-100% tuition waiver and included Dartmouth, University of Michigan, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Duke and University of Washington in St. Louis. Getting into one of these top-tier schools and having nearly all of your tuition waived seems like a wise choice if you are looking to transition into the business world.
Other schools offer anywhere between 20-70% tuition waiver. These schools can still offer significant savings and better career opportunities after graduation.
Like any aspiring MBA student, you should evaluate schools based on their reputation, curriculum and networking opportunities. However, financial assistance can certainly be a strong factor especially since the savings can be quite significant.
MBA Programs Love Military Experience
Getting into an MBA program may be a great career move if you have a military background. You may even have an advantage over other students due to your experience, even if your test scores and grades are lower than average. Check with the schools that you are interested in and see if they offer financial assistance or other military benefits.