Military applicants to business school represent a non-traditional applicant pool but nonetheless a demographic that is consistently represented each year in the application process. That said, it is no secret that many of the gatekeepers at top MBA programs most often have very little real world experience with the military.
While admissions committees tend to value the leadership experiences and professionalism military candidates bring to the MBA classroom, misconceptions can abound about other areas of strength and weakness among military applicants. Accordingly, a critical part of your MBA application strategy should include understanding what these misconceptions and stereotypes are and how to overcome them in your application.
Top 5 Most Common Misconceptions About Military Applicants (in no particular order):
1. You don’t have control of your military career.
Use your applications to talk about the opportunities you have created for yourself and challenging roles you have taken on of your own volition. Let the admissions committees know that you aren’t simply moving up the ranks because it is time, but rather seeking out challenging assignments and driving your own career.
2. You don’t have experience thinking outside of the box or coming up with creative solutions.
As a consultant I find this misconception most frustrating and damaging because, regardless of service, most of the military clients I’ve worked with are not only coming up with creative solutions, they are doing so in stressful scenarios with limited resources. Don’t be afraid to highlight these experiences!
3. Your teamwork skills may not be as robust as your civilian peers.
Teamwork is an important quality the admissions teams seek from all applicants and the military applicant pool is no exception. Admissions committees can be cautious about applicants who spend too much time talking about top-down leadership. Make sure to emphasize your lateral, team-based leadership as well in order to help admissions committees understand you are great at working in a group setting as well as at giving orders.
4. You are a good leader but not necessarily a good follower.
This idea is based on the notion that as an officer you are trained to lead subordinates. But as anyone who has served understands, you also follow a chain of command. While your MBA applications should always emphasize your leadership experience it can be an effective strategy to include a well-placed mention of when you have let someone else take the reigns.
5. Your recommenders don’t really know you that well.
Recommendations can be an important point of distinction for military candidates in the application process. It isn’t uncommon for military recommendations to come from supervisors who are accustomed to writing military performance reports. The style of military performance reports is predicated on effusive language (my #1, best of, etc.) and military supervisors may make the mistake of using that same approach in academic recommendations. Without the use of specific examples, this can come across as being distant or reflecting a supervisor who really doesn’t know you all that well. Coach your recommenders to give specific examples of your successes, compare you directly with your peers and discuss your potential for success outside of the military.
As you develop your application with these considerations in mind you will differentiate yourself from your peers and assuage any perceived concerns the admissions teams may have about your ability to perform in their program and excel in the private sector. Just as you would prepare a briefing with your target audience in mind, prepare your MBA applications with the same awareness.
Want to craft a strong application? Military applicants receive up to $1000 off MBA admissions consulting. Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to sign up for a Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation!
Emily Sawyer-Kegerreis is a Head Consultant at Veritas Prep and specializes in the career development needs of transitioning military veterans. Veritas Prep is the largest privately-owned test prep and admissions consulting company in the world. Since 2002, Veritas Prep has helped thousands of applicants gain admission to their dream schools using its team of experienced consultants and a personalized game plan for each client.