A Veteran’s Odds Of Getting Into A Top School


Photo Credit: Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management

One of the most frequent questions we get at Service To School is: What are my “chances” of getting into a top-tier business school? In order to help our applicants gain a better picture of the MBA admissions landscape, we looked through our historical data to draw some rough conclusions about what applicants can expect when applying to various business schools. First, some caveats…

  1. There are lots of intangibles in MBA admissions. For example, different admissions offices value different traits and characteristics in their candidates and weigh certain data points differently. Getting admitted is not a pure numbers game. Rather, hard data points often reflect conditions that are requirements/prerequisites but are not, in and of themselves, sufficient for admission.
  2. The information below is not a complete picture of veteran applicants. In fact, it isn’t even a complete picture of the S2S veterans in our applicant pool. The charts below are based on self-reported data taken from our 2015-2016 exit surveys (n=50) that represent a very broad cross section of military applicants, disproportionately made up of service academy graduates. However, the sixth and seventh charts below provide some insight into how undergraduate pedigree can influence outcomes.
  3. When it comes to admissions, a double blind controlled study is virtually impossible. In other words, correlation does not and should not be taken to imply causation.
  4. When we denote M7 or T16 in the charts below they are defined as the following:

M7 = Harvard, Stanford, Penn (Wharton), Northwestern (Kellogg), Chicago (Booth), Columbia, and MIT (Sloan)

T16 (Poets&Quants Ranking) = M7+ UC-Berkeley (Haas), Dartmouth (Tuck), Yale SOM, Duke (Fuqua), Virginia (Darden), Michigan (Ross), UCLA (Anderson), Cornell (Johnson), New York (Stern)

Additionally, when we denote admits to T16 schools, it is specifically in reference to those applicants admitted to T16 schools but not admitted to M7 schools.

Now to the fun stuff…


Our data shows GMAT/GRE test scores are one of the best indicators of success. Even for military applicants, a high test score is important. This is a great example of a necessary but not sufficient condition. Many schools divide applications into “buckets” based on industry (i.e. consulting, banking, government, non-profit, etc). Tangibly, this means that, while your military experience and background make you unique as an applicant, you are effectively competing against other military applicants, including in some cases, international military candidates. There is a popular notion among veterans that their military background can help offset weaknesses in a GMAT score. While we don’t have sufficient data to prove or disprove this view, we do see GMAT scores correlate strongly with veteran success. So, whether or not veterans have a lower GMAT bar to cross, they are still heavily evaluated on that metric relative to other veterans.


No surprise here. While military applicants come from many different undergraduate institutions, those who come from service academies and Top 50 colleges fare much better at T16 business schools.


However, graduates from non-service academies and non-US Top 50 schools who have strong GMAT and GPAs find as much success as their service academy and US Top 50 counterparts.

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