I envy the position that you are in. My family is military with my grandfather in WWII, my father in Vietnam and my brother with 2 more recent tours under his belt. If I joined, I probably would have enlisted in the Coast Guard. Kidding...
Jokes aside, military officers are considered extremely desirable by admissions committees. They are known as proven leaders in environments where immediacy and the right decisions have life and death consequences. Additionally, admissions committees understand that military leadership also means readjusting even the best laid plans to motivate troops and readjust tactics. This type of flexibility and ability to make decisions bodes well in rounding out a business school class. This is regardless of politics as the military is not a political organization. So once you have this type of leadership under your belt, use these military examples (I have often debated the merits of some stories btw as they were NSFW or NSF the admissions committee).
That being said, I have worked with about 20 or so military candidates in the last 8 years and the stories are pretty unreal. One of my clients (in his essays) described making a life an death call in Iraq, electing to use a newer (fairly unproven) weapon to take out a sniper when they could not wait for air support or a Stryker to evac. That weapon, his testicular fortitude and his decision that night saved a few in his fireteam. The weapon proved to be a godsend in theater and was made by GD. It was the spark that lite a fire in him. His eventually post-MBA goal was to work for GD in a product management faculty. I am not sure how much Military or Discovery Channel you watch but it was like a behind the scenes opportunity to really take a boots on the ground story and put it into a business related context. I am sure whoever on the adcom read the essays really had their attention captured (and probably held in an undisclosed location.)
With respect to your next question - very few military candidates actually chose to apply. It's just not something that officers really plan on undertaking. The military is a lifestyle, a passion, a duty and something that is hard to give up. As officers move up, and let's say make there way over to the Pentagon, an MBA is not in the cards. It's not Cupertino and you don't have a lot of officers who "Think Different." One of our admissions consultants (a West Point grad) told me "there is the right way, the wrong way and the Army way." So the military is an efficient mechanism but not one where traditional marketing or product strategy techniques take hold. Thus, the military and MBA types don't hang out at the Yale Club together. BTW, a very military friendly MBA program is Darden, a program that draws strong parallels to HBS.
I think at this point, there is no real difference in being part of an elite force and being an officer in charge of the supply dump at Ft. Lewis, Washington. I do know that really good examples are combat stories. However, no one needs a Rambo type story. The discipline and leadership the military instills is a start that places military applicants in high esteem. To answer one of your questions very directly, the veteran applicants that don't make it are those with low GMAT scores. In that respect, they face the same challenge as the general populace.
I do find it weird that most of the officers I knew in b-school were Marine officers. My wild guess would be that it has something to do around the myriad of ways that one can become a Marine officer. Enlisted to Commissioned, you can do a ROTC style program in UG and you can even come out of the naval academy. My guess would be the depth in Marine officers' varying experiences and that may cause a higher number of them to in fact "Think Different."
Personally, I know a few recruiters at consulting firms that love military. I worked on a few public service projects at KPMG and BearingPoint and ex-military have great relationships with the defense companies. They can walk the talk. Additionally, military are known for being extremely honest and ethical. While this is not at the exclusion of other demographics, the military officers I have known professionally will not cut corners and will see it through until the end. Recruiters know this and employers value this.
I hope the above helps. I encourage you to go for it. Then I can live vicariously through you!
If you have more direct questions, please PM me. Additionally, if you would like to speak for an hour on the phone or if I can put you in touch with any military/MBA's, please let me know.
Cross-posting from the career forum, as I'd like to get some input from admissions consultants on this topic. Thanks in advance!
I'm currently considering joining the military as an officer, as I would very much like to serve my country and gain some leadership experience before heading off to business school. I'm definitely *not* joining the military just to get into business school- although that may be what I tell my folks (very liberal types).
A little background about myself: I graduated from a top-25 university with a BS in engineering in 2008 (GPA a shade over 3.0), worked as an analyst at a large bank/credit card firm for a year, and have spent the last year working for a software company in silicon valley. I've been scoring around 750 on my practice GMATs.
-Obviously, the process for admission to HBS (or any of the top business schools) is extremely competitive and highly desirable. According to a blog, veterans make up approximately 3% of the class of 2011 at HBS, and I assume that the numbers are similar at comparable programs, which would make the total number of veterans pursuing MBAs very small (please correct me if I'm wrong). Is this because very few veterans choose to apply? Is it because admission as a veteran is extremely challenging? Or is it a combination or something else entirely?
-Are military officers are less competitive for slots at the top schools compared with civilians with more "traditional" work experience?
-What is the general profile of successful veteran applicants to top schools? Are they all elite types, such as Army Rangers, fighter pilots, Navy SEALs, and so on? What kind of veteran applicants don't make it?
-Is there much of a difference in competitiveness of applicants from the different services? For example, Marine Corps officers represent about 8% of the total commissioned officers in the military, yet they represented 19% of the veterans in the HBS 2011 class.
These questions are specifically for veterans in MBA programs-
-How did you go about selecting a program? If you were still in the service, how did your superiors react- were they supportive?
-How have you found your military experience impacts your interactions with (potential) employers? How do you think they view you compared to your peers that have spent time at management consulting firms, investment firms, and so on? How do you think they view candidates with different military backgrounds?
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