‘Service To School’: Meet The CEO & Wharton MBA Whose Mission Is To Help Veterans Succeed In School by: Riley Webster on April 19, 2023 | 1,199 Views April 19, 2023 Copy Link Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email Share on LinkedIn Share on WhatsApp Share on Reddit Every year, Service to School helps 2,500 veterans get into their college of choice. In total, it’s helped more than 15,000. Courtesy photo Alexander Emmert has always been service-minded. He spent his early years in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There, his father worked for the US government, and Emmert was exposed to the country’s strong income disparity at a young age. “I’d see kids my own age begging on the streets, and I often thought, ‘Why them and not me? Why am I so lucky?’” Recognizing his privilege, he knew he knew he wanted to give back in his career. He joined the military after high school, where he was on active duty as a nuclear submarine officer for eight years. His twice deployment to the Middle East had him witness more, grave realities of those who were less fortunate. Later, he transitioned out of the military and into The Wharton School’s class of 2020 MBA program. But even after leaving the military, he continued to find outlets to give back. In Afghanistan, he and a team helped to empower young girls to have independence, social mobility, and autonomy over their own lives through education. He also helped his own veteran community, first as a volunteer MBA ambassador for Service to School — a non-profit organization that provides free college and grad school application counseling to U.S. military veterans and service members — and now as the company’s CEO. “It’s an organization I’m passionate about, and I’ve seen the impact it’s had in the veteran community firsthand,” he explains. ‘MANY VETERANS DEAL WITH IMPOSTOR SYNDROME WHEN APPLYING TO SCHOOL’ Alexander Emmert: “An MBA is a great foundation to build upon after leaving the military. When you pair veterans’ high capabilities with an education from a good school, they can go out and do great things in the business world.” Courtesy photo For those transitioning out of the military, getting into an MBA program is no easy feat. “Most of us have been doing the military thing since we were in our late teens,” says Emmert. “I think many veterans deal with imposter syndrome when applying to school.” Emmert says veterans applying to B-school are often behind most of their peers — and it’s their job to play catch-up. While the military has a program that helps folks transition into civilian life and get into higher education, Emmert says it lacks support. Plus, although veterans learned soft skills like critical thinking, leadership, and teamwork in the military, many lack measurable skills that will help them succeed in the business world. “A lot of veterans were doing things like landing planes on aircraft carriers, jumping out of planes, and driving submarines. But they weren’t building Excel models,” Emmert continues. “With an MBA, veterans learn hard skills that help them succeed in the private sector.” THE MBA: ‘A FOUNDATION TO BUILD UPON AFTER LEAVING THE MILITARY’ Each year, Service to School helps 2,500 veterans get into their program of choice. In total, it’s helped more than 15,000. “Over 60% of our applicants are first-generation college students,” says Emmert. “They don’t come from a background where they were brought up knowing how to apply to college.” “An MBA is a great foundation to build upon after leaving the military,” continues Emmert. “When you pair veterans’ high capabilities with an education from a good school, they can go out and do great things in the business world.” At Service to School, there is a team of full-time employees who have backgrounds in higher education as well as volunteers who have been through the process themselves. Together, they help walk the veterans through their application. HELPING MBAS GET INTO THEIR MBA PROGRAM OF CHOICE First, applicants fill out an intake form on the organization’s website, which includes questions about the veterans’ preference of schools. The form is then sent to the organization’s MBA team. This team then matches each applicant with an MBA ambassador with a similar profile and experience. Next, the applicant and MBA ambassador have several meetings to determine an application strategy and which schools to apply to. Then, the MBA ambassador helps the applicant write a resume. Most vets don’t have much experience writing resumes, according to Emmert, and most are full of jargon that admissions representatives won’t understand. Here, the ambassador’s job is to work with the applicant to help them “civilianize” the resume, highlighting the impact that they made with their military experience. The same thing happens with their essays — applicants are walked through the process of conveying their military experience into how they’ll make a positive contribution at business school and in the business community. For extra support, applicants can make use of the VetLink program, which is a partnership with 28 highly selective colleges, such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and MIT. Here, they’ll work with a mentor and Service to School staff member to further prepare their application. ‘THEIR BIGGEST ALLY IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS IS THEIR FELLOW VETERANS’ On April 8, Emmert published a book, Breaking Business School: The Savvy Veteran’s 10-Step Guide to MBA Success, which is free on Kindle. It is designed to help other veterans navigate the MBA journey. Emmert’s best advice for veterans applying to B-school is to take the application process one step at a time to avoid feeling daunted and overwhelmed. And he reminds them to be humble and adopt a growth mindset, recognizing that failure and rejection are simply part of the process. He believes that the more veterans can embrace that they can learn from failure — and that failure isn’t a badge of dishonor — the more success they’ll have. “Most veterans applying to MBA programs are among the top 10% performers in their units; they’re not used to failure,” he says. “When they get into that MBA application process, most think that they are flawless. The reality is, there are so many other capable veterans from different branches and communities that they’re going to be competing against. “It’s up to them to be humble and put their best foot forward in the application process and not take a cavalier approach to it; rather, they need to do some deep soul-searching and think about how they made an impact and why business school would want them over another veteran.” Mostly, though, Emmert emphasizes the importance of asking for help. “Their biggest ally in the application process is their fellow veterans,” he continues. DON’T MISS MY STORY: FROM THE ARAB SPRING TO WHARTON and THE U.S. IS PREPARING TO LEAVE AFGHANISTAN. THESE MBAS ARE COMMITTED TO THE COUNTRY’S LONG-TERM STABILITY Comments or questions about this article? Email us.