Wednesday, March 3, 2010
BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Dear Mr. Bradshaw -- I am due to be discharged from the Army in the fall after serving as a platoon leader in Iraq. I have a bachelor of science degree in social science and communications from Indiana University.
I'm writing to find out if I'm qualified to apply to a good MBA program, such as IU or the University of Chicago. My grades were good, and I plan to take the GMAT next fall. Do you think my military experience and being a veteran will help when I apply? -- A soon-to-be veteran
Dear Veteran -- First of all, it is an honor to take your question. As a veteran, I understand your concerns. The answer is almost all good news. Your background is outstanding for applying to an MBA program.
The military means leadership and the ability to work with diverse groups of people toward a common goal. In fact, a growing number of business schools recruit veterans.
The MBA program at Harvard, for instance, boasts that 5 percent of its students are veterans, and it offers them a $5,000 a year stipend. Many other MBA programs offer similar stipends.
Business schools realize that veterans may not have been able to save money for their educations as they would have if they had traditional jobs. They also recruit at military job fairs, create dedicated veterans scholarships, and partner with the government to offer hefty financial aid packages.
But that good news is only the beginning. Job prospects for veterans are outstanding. The consensus is that veterans tend to be highly successful due to a sense of discipline and ability to build camaraderie.
They also are recruited because business leaders think they are uniquely qualified for government projects that increasingly make up a larger portion of their business.
One key point to remember is that although you still are in the military, think creatively about how to apply to business school. One method I suggest is taking photos and videos of yourself with your platoon. These can be powerful persuaders to admissions committees -- especially to the very top schools -- that show your leadership among those for whose lives you are responsible.
Few nonveterans can make such references. Posting on YouTube would make a powerful statement.
The move from battlefield to the classroom will require some adjustments. The most important one will be upgrading your quantitative skills.
Most business schools offer a summer program preceding the first year that focuses on improving quantitative skills and mastering the ubiquitous spread sheet.
I suggest that all students, not just veterans, who apply to business school read "Ahead of the Curve: Two years at Harvard Business School," by Philip Broughton. It covers in detail what to expect in the summer program and how best to prepare.
Gerald M. Bradshaw of Crown Point consults with students on how to gain admission to selective colleges, universities and law schools.
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