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Recap of HBS Military Prospective Students Day 2017

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Recap of HBS Military Prospective Students Day 2017 [#permalink]

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New post 03 Oct 2017, 11:06
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Yesterday, October 2nd, 2017, I attended the Military Prospective Students Day (MPSD) hosted by the Armed Forces Alumni Association (AFAA) at Harvard Business School. The highlights of the visit were the class visit, opportunity to chat one on one with current veteran students, and the student & faculty panel (particularly the comments from former Amgen CEO and current professor Kevin Sharer). It was a really fantastic event, and I encourage any vets interested in applying to HBS to attend. Read on below for the full blow by blow of the day.

Schedule

0800 - 0845 Registration and Breakfast
0845 - 0900 Welcome Address
0910 - 1030 Class Visit
1050 - 1130 Admissions and Financial Aid Overview
1130 - 1210 Campus Tour
1215 - 1300 Lunch w/ current Students
1315 - 1345 Career & Professional Development Overview
1345 - 1400 Student Academic Services Presentation
1400 - 1415 Joint Degree Program Overview
1415 - 1430 Coffee Break
1430 - 1530 Faculty & Student Panel
1530 - 1550 Remarks by AFAA Alumnus
1550 - 1600 Closing Remarks
1600 - 1700 Reception with AFAA students and alumni

Registration and Breakfast

Folders were prepared for everyone that included schedules and a campus map along an assigned section for class observation as well as a room assignment for lunch. A light breakfast with coffee, tea, and water was provided and members of the AFAA mingled with the prospective students attending the event.

Welcome Address

Chad Losee, the managing director of HBS Admissions, gave the opening remarks in the Spangler Auditorium. He asked that everyone pay attention to how students interact, both actively and passively, during class within the context of the case method. He also emphasized, as a father of 4 children, that HBS was a great environment for families. Finally, he mentioned two attributes that he felt veterans brought to their graduating classes: Experience and Maturity.

Class Visit

I attended a 1st year, required curriculum course simply titled “Marketing”. Overall the atmosphere was very light and humorous, and all of ~90 students in the room were very engaged. The class started with a thunderous applause for a visiting parent for one of the students and a similarly loud applause for the visiting military service members. The Professor then shared the results of a student survey on how the class was going that he had recently given to the class (kind of reminded me of an In Progress Review). He requested that students focus on the big picture concept of the class, and reinforced this point by bringing up an example of how a student in the past was unable to see how they could apply lessons learned from a case study about “tractors in India” to their real life job dealing with “buses in Pakistan”. The Professor also responded to a request many students had made during the survey asking that he “push back on bad comments”, saying that is the job of the students, not himself. The class then launched into a discussion of the days topic, which was a set of four different products: Edi-Peel (an organic alternative to coating produce with wax), the Apex Ski Boot (a more comfortable, modular ski boot), Blue Wine, and the Executive Check-up (a multi-day health review at the Mayo Clinic companies can pay for to ensure the health and fitness of their senior executive hires). The class moved through each of these products discussing the various challenges and advantages they had in taking them to market. I took about 5 pages of notes on the discussion, so if anyone is interested in commentary on any of the products specifically, let me know and I will post more in the thread. Anyway, the professor guided the discussion by calling on students and moved almost constantly throughout the room while intermittently writing notes on the blackboard. Towards the end of class, he wrapped up the discussion by introducing a framework for analyzing the challenges in the public adopting a new product that was based on the following attributes of the product: 1. Relative Advantage, 2. Compatibility (with perceptions, social norms, products as we know them, etc…), 3. Complexity, 4. Observability (i.e. the signature white earbuds of the iPod, the “Intel Inside” sticker on PCs), 5. Tryability (or Testability). Analysis of these attributes help to determine a product’s potential in the marketplace as well as identifying how a business can leverage a product’s advantages while working on its weaknesses with respect to those attributes. One interesting thing that I wanted to mention is that the class stays in the same classroom throughout the day as new professors rotate in.

Admissions and Financial Aid Overview

The admissions officer repeatedly stressed that every application gets read twice. The other valuable points on admissions were advice to not write your essays in a way that you’re just writing what you think the admissions committee wants to hear. They also emphasized that you should get somebody to write your recs that knows you well, not somebody with really fancy titles. The officer there also remarked that although they tend to jot down questions in preparation for the interview, it tends to go off script after 5-10 minutes, although obviously that may vary by whoever is conducting the interview.

With respect to financial aid, the officer that was present remarked that vets who are 100% eligible for the GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon program will still have a gap of about $24,000 per year that they will have to find a way to cover. Please keep in mind that this is based on a very conservative estimate of student expenses. He also mentioned that HBS sets aside 60 Yellow Ribbon slots per year across the full time and executive programs, and has never run out of availability which is great news for anyone that is 100% eligible for the GI Bill. He also stated that vets NOT eligible for the GI bill still receive some financial aid besides student loans. He was also vehement that, due to recent changes by congress, it is no longer a good idea to begin your first day of school on Active Duty.

Campus Tour

We visited the Baker Library and the gym during a short walk around campus.

Lunch with Current Students

Our group had lunch with a former Navy Intelligence Officer and a former Marine C-130 Pilot. Early on, the C-130 Pilot repeatedly emphasized how busy and hectic things had been for the first three weeks in class and how many veterans found that their lack of accounting, financial, and MS Excel skills were a major point of pain when trying to keep up in the more quantitatively focused classes. In fact, the onus was more or less on the students to educate themselves through the recommended readings that accompanied the case studies as the concepts did not receive much attention in the class itself. The Intel Officer also mentioned that it is easy to schedule time with tutors via the Student Academic Services, or to get help from classmates that already have these skills. The Pilot also made an interesting comment about, “having enough capital to build your social network”. Specifically, she was referring to how expensive class trips and social activities can get, and that you need to take this into account when planning your budget for B school. The Intel Officer remarked that one of the key strengths that veterans brought to the classroom was experience and leadership, and even mentioned that on a recent survey his section had stated that they, “wish the veterans contributed more in class”. He also commented on how surprised he was at the speed of the recruiting process, and how you have to be ready, after only 6 weeks in class in your first year, to commit to one particular industry/function and really pursue those recruiting events in order to build your credibility with particular firms and companies.

Career & Professional Development Overview

The top jobs by industry for vet graduates were Consulting (38%), Healthcare (22%), and Investment Banking (19%). The top jobs by function were Consulting (41%) and General Management (32%). They also talked about how the Career & Professional Development office will help you “cradle to grave” and even shared a story about an 80 year old alumnus who had recently requested some assistance.

Joint Degree Programs

What really jumped out to me was the fact that in order to complete the HBS/HLS joint degree you need 4 years, which may be too long for many veterans who are already 30+ years old by the time they matriculate.

Student & Faculty Panel

The highlight of this presentation was Professor Kevin Sharer, former CEO of Amgen and veteran of the US Navy. I’m going to present his thoughts without commentary. On HBS in general: “do you even want to come here at all?”, “what you have done already is unmatched in your generational peer set”, “the HBS network is not as valuable as you think”, “the world is not dying for more Harvard MBAs”. On the case method: “I don’t care what you learn, really, I just want you to be able to think critically about the information you’re presented and convey a position that is logical and succinct”, “what you’ll learn here is that great skill called ‘buzzword compatibility’”, “you will learn to think critically under conditions of ambiguity”. On the Required Curriculum (RC) vs. Elected Curriculum (EC) year: “this place is like a high school”, “EC year is like your senior year of college after Spring Break”. General advice: “change your thinking to move on from being a veteran instead of always thinking about how you can leverage the fact that you are a veteran”, “my toughest transition to the civilian world came in understanding the true nature of power”, “getting in here (getting admitted to HBS) is a total lottery”.

The student panel, composed of a co-President of the AFAA, a former Marine Officer, a former Special Forces Officer, and an Active Duty Navy Officer, also had some great thoughts as well. One was that sometimes vets struggle with stepping back from a leadership role and becoming a strong individual contributor to their groups. They also mentioned that, in terms of academic challenge, that the 1st semester is about 50% of the work, the 2nd semester is about 25% of the work, and then the 2nd year is the remaining 25% of the work. The idea of how fast the recruiting process is was also brought up again, and one of the panelists remarked that, “to me the hardest part was recruiting and career choice – you had to know by mid-October of your first year of school”. I also liked one of the comments that vets should not, “confuse leadership for competence”. Especially considering that military folks come from a world where bearing and presentation is so important, it is easy to see how vets may be too judgmental of people with great technical skills or ideas but lack leadership or presentation skills. A panelist also remarked how the integrity and morals of a typical ex-service member may be a bit different than that of their classmates.

Remarks by AFAA Alumnus

The alumnus was Jim Matheson, a former Navy pilot and TOPGUN instructor, who is a venture capitalist and CEO of Oasys Water Inc. His most interesting comment was his reasoning for why he wanted to get an MBA, and basically he saw it as the best way to reshape and reinvent himself. He also brought up a concept of “convergent/divergent” decision making in life. Basically, you branch out from an individual decision (i.e. I want to go to B School) to a bunch of choices (Should I go to school W, X, Y, or Z) which then converges to a decision (I’m going to school Z) which leads to another set of choices (chould I recruit for industry X, Y, or Z). Finally, he addressed some of the potential weaknesses of hiring vets, specifically that they have a hard time of letting go of a “take charge attitude” which kind of dove tails with the idea of becoming a good individual contributor mentioned above.

Closing Remarks

Jana Kierstead, the Executive Director of MBA and Doctoral programs, gave the closing remarks. She again returned to the classroom environment and likened the faculty as “conductors” who lead an “orchestra” of students that have been carefully selected based on what they bring to the class. She also remarked that each 93 person section was like a microcosm of the 900+ class as a whole. She also asked that the prospective students consider, “how they can contribute (to the class) in a way that improves your classmates?”. An example she cited was giving responses in class that avoid using acronyms and technical jargon that not everyone would be able to understand. Chad Losee also answered another admissions question during this time, stating that when students fill out there applications that they need to think about “How you think about your experiences and what you learned from them.” The implication being that the WHY matters just as much as the WHAT in the application.

Reception with AFAA students and alumni

Hopefully self-explanatory. The prospective students had a chance to chat with alumni and current students over light refreshments.


If anyone has any questions about other particulars of the day I am happy to answer. I took about 10 pages of notes so fire away!

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Re: Recap of HBS Military Prospective Students Day 2017 [#permalink]

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New post 03 Oct 2017, 11:10
Very well written XTOL - Couldn't have expected better than this.

Appreciate your time and efforts to write this post.

Did you apply for R1? (HBS), IF yes what is the result?
_________________

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Re: Recap of HBS Military Prospective Students Day 2017 [#permalink]

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New post 03 Oct 2017, 11:13
ydmuley wrote:
Very well written XTOL - Couldn't have expected better than this.

Appreciate your time and efforts to write this post.

Did you apply for R1? (HBS), IF yes what is the result?


Thanks! I will be applying next year, still have an outstanding commitment that I need to finish up first.

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Re: Recap of HBS Military Prospective Students Day 2017 [#permalink]

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New post 03 Oct 2017, 11:16
Got it - Thanks and All The Best.
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"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

Worried About IDIOMS? Here is a Daily Practice List: https://gmatclub.com/forum/idiom-s-ydmuley-s-daily-practice-list-250731.html#p1937393

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Recap of HBS Military Prospective Students Day 2017 [#permalink]

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New post 03 Oct 2017, 12:37
Thanks for the detailed post! I wish I had been able to go but had some projects at work.

I asked this in the military thread, but did you also notice that all the current students, alumni, and most applicants came from infantry, aviation, intelligence, or SOF backgrounds? It's something I've observed from military days at other schools and speaking to current students, where only the women came from non-combat backgrounds. As crazy as it sounds there seems to be a disadvantage in getting admitted from serving in a non-combat MOS. Was your experience different? Even in your post, you referenced the Intel and C130 pilot.

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Recap of HBS Military Prospective Students Day 2017 [#permalink]

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New post 03 Oct 2017, 13:24
Filthydelphia wrote:
Thanks for the detailed post! I wish I had been able to go but had some projects at work.

I asked this in the military thread, but did you also notice that all the current students, alumni, and most applicants came from infantry, aviation, intelligence, or SOF backgrounds? It's something I've observed from military days at other schools and speaking to current students, where only the women came from non-combat backgrounds. As crazy as it sounds there seems to be a disadvantage in getting admitted from serving in a non-combat MOS. Was your experience different? Even in your post, you referenced the Intel and C130 pilot.


So I was an infantry officer who switched to special operations civil affairs, so take what I say below with a grain of salt as applicable...

I agree with your observation, but I don't agree with your conclusion. At least for the Army, the most competitive branches to get into are Infantry and Aviation, and if I recall correctly Military Intelligence was fourth most competitive. At a minimum that was true when I commissioned. So I wouldn't be surprised that a large number of the most competitive applicants to business school come from these branches as well, because a huge portion of the top 15% of officers at commissioning selected the aforementioned branches.

SOF throws another interesting spin into an application. Not only do Special Forces and Navy SEALS hold a special place in the public imagination, but they also get a huge amount of international and interagency experience relative to their peers. It probably didn't hurt that most of these programs have their participants learn a foreign language and acquire knowledge about a particular region of the world.

I don't think support branches are actively discriminated against though. However the actual military experiences of say a logistics officer compared to an aviator may not be as immediately engaging. I do think that stats matter a lot for military, so if you knock the GMAT out of the park and have a good undergrad GPA (which you clearly have) then I wouldn't fret too much about your branch.

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Re: Recap of HBS Military Prospective Students Day 2017 [#permalink]

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New post 09 Oct 2017, 19:10
Filthydelphia wrote:
Thanks for the detailed post! I wish I had been able to go but had some projects at work.

I asked this in the military thread, but did you also notice that all the current students, alumni, and most applicants came from infantry, aviation, intelligence, or SOF backgrounds? It's something I've observed from military days at other schools and speaking to current students, where only the women came from non-combat backgrounds. As crazy as it sounds there seems to be a disadvantage in getting admitted from serving in a non-combat MOS. Was your experience different? Even in your post, you referenced the Intel and C130 pilot.

Posted from my mobile device

Posted from my mobile device


Hey Filthydelphia,

There are a ton of intelligence, supply corps, logistics, and nuclear officers at HBS. Support roles probably beat out aviation and gunslingers numbers wise in each class. It's important to note that the admissions committee is almost entirely made up of women, none of which have served in the military, and few of which have contact with veterans besides HBS students. To them, frankly, most vets are the same. The ones that get admitted are the ones come across as more open-minded, less rigid, and readily able to translate their military leadership to the professional world. Stories about kicking in doors, or sporting high-and-tights don't go over too well in the interview process. I think that's why aviators and supply guys do so well at HBS -- the first are pretty casual anyway and the second are junior MBAs already.

Everyone else -- Just get a second set of eyes to see ensure your applications have been sufficiently "civilianized" before you submit; or a second opinion if you want to know what went wrong in Round 1 so you don't repeat the mistake elsewhere in Round 2.
_________________

Best,
Nate


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Re: Recap of HBS Military Prospective Students Day 2017   [#permalink] 09 Oct 2017, 19:10
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