From M777s to M7: 7 Tips from an Army Veteran on MBA Admissions

A former Artillery Officer and current Kellogg MBA Candidate gives his best advice for other veterans thinking about applying to business school or currently going through the application process.

Posted January 10, 2024

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Transitioning from the military is stressful enough without thinking about what comes after. Once you’re out in the real world, it can be difficult to look out for yourself, keep your boss happy, and remain open to future opportunities. I learned this lesson the hard way; I transitioned from the military and then decided to pursue an MBA. Going through this process gave me several key insights that I’d like to share with you. For advice and guidance on any part of the MBA application–including essays, resume review, GRE studying, and more–work with me on Leland. I believe I can add value to your admissions journey, and I’d love to help you get into your dream school. Book a free intro call on my profile to get started.

I started my MBA application journey about two years out from the end of my contract with the Army. For others in a similar position, I recommend doing the same. Although Artillery Officers have a reputation for not being the brightest in the bunch, there were several important things I learned while going through this process that I’d like to share with you to get you started on the transition from the military to business school.

1. Start test prep early

While we would all like to “first time go” the standardized test, it is almost never that simple. I recommend starting test prep a year before the application deadlines to give yourself a buffer. Start preparing by taking a full practice test for BOTH the GRE and GMAT, then spend your time focusing on the one that is best suited to your strengths.

2. REFRAD (submit separation paperwork) as early as possible

In order to manage your boss’s expectations, submit your separation paperwork as early as you can. By being transparent early on, you’ll allow them to talent manage the organization better and prevent hard feelings. They’ll be less likely to feel burned, and you’ll be ensuring a peaceful transition that sets you up for success. This is especially important if you intend to use leadership for letters of recommendation.

3. Prep your recommenders

Most of your military leadership will not have experience writing letters of recommendation for business schools. For this reason, it’s imperative that you prepare your recommenders ahead of time. Look up potential LOR questions and give them examples of times/experiences in which you demonstrated the desired qualities. It would also be helpful to give them a list of all the due dates so that neither they nor you are stressed as the deadlines approach.

4. Take the transition center’s resume classes with a grain of salt

The mandatory classes that come with the transition will focus on building an effective resume to land a job. However, these resumes are not effective when applying to business school as an MBA application resume looks very different from a career-focused one. The most important thing to remember is to show your personal impact when writing bullets. The Leland MBA Library has lots of resources that can help you in this regard. For MBA resumes, read: How to Craft the Ultimate MBA Resume–With Examples.

5. Utilize your target school’s veteran’s clubs

Networking is everything, so it’s important to make solid connections at your target schools. The veteran’s clubs are an extremely helpful resource in this regard. Use them to meet people, learn about school fit, review your resume and essays, and more. During my application process, this was probably the greatest source of value.

6. Try to do a Skillbridge/Career Skills Program Internship

The military offers an incredible program where you can do a three-month internship during your last six months of active duty. If your leadership approves it, you’ll go to one of a wide variety of companies. I was fortunate enough to do my internship at Dell Technologies during the transition from the military. It was a great first experience working in a corporate setting, and I’d encourage anyone to take advantage of the opportunity.

7. Take time to relax

Congratulations on making it this far! Transitioning out of the military is stressful and applying to MBA programs is also a rigorous affair. Many of us have spent years in a rigid and fast-paced environment and you owe it to yourself to take some much-needed time off!

If you’d like to bounce ideas off of someone or are looking for other great resources, schedule a call with me. I've spent over three years working with Service to School, an organization that helps veterans get into top schools, and I’d love to work with you as well. Don't be discouraged if you're not a veteran, I am here for your no matter what your background is! Schedule a call with me and we’ll figure out how we can work together.

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