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The Tuesday Q&A: Military to MBA

July 12, 2011 :: Admissionado Team

Got a question about those MBA applications? Stuck on an essay? Need a little clarity? Chances are, you’re not the only one.

Thankfully, Admissionado founder and Harvard MBA Jon Frank has an answer… for everything admissions-related. And he’s going to share all of his answers with you, right here, every Tuesday.

So let’s do this….

This week’s question, and one Jon gets all the time, comes from one of our nation’s heroes. So how does one go from the military to an MBA program? Jon weigh’s in:


I’ve just finished up with my military duties and am eager to change course and get an MBA. The problem is, I’m older than most applicants (33) and never really had much of an opportunity to do extra-curriculars. Are these things going to ruin my chances for admission? Any idea how I can overcome these obstacles in my application?


First off, let me start by thanking you for your service to our country. People don’t say it often enough…so again, thank you.

And now that that’s taken care of, let’s get to your question. I have been overwhelmed by the number of questions from military guys seeking an MBA, so I’d like to talk generally about the military and applying to B-School. You want to know what potential issues you could face? I’ll lay them out for you…and show you how they really aren’t issues at all.

First of all, for all of you, there’s the AGE issue. And the answer is, business schools expect guys with military experience to be older. It’s that simple. And it is not anything to worry about. When I was at HBS, we had a few military guys in our section (5 anyway), and most were at least 4 years older than the rest of the class. This is normal, okay, and to be expected.

Second, there’s the issue of experience — that is, lack of “financial-ish” experience. Again, NOT an issue. In class, we would sit around talking about leadership. One guy raises his hand and says, “When I led my M&A team in my bank, I found that…” and the next guy raises his hand and says, “When I lead my real estate development team we…”, and then the military guy says, “When I commanded my squadron of twelve fighter pilots while being attacked from all sides by bogies, we…” I mean, who do you want leading your team? Leadership is compelling stuff–I dont care if you havent worked for Goldman.

And finally, there’s the issue of extra curriculars. Of course, it’s ideal if you have great experience there. But it’s less important, since you were in the military. You simply don’t have as many options on the base, and that too is normal, okay, and to be expected.

I hope this is helpful.
— Jon

Does this help you? Got a question of your own?
If you want Jon to weigh in on a topic, any topic, email us at info@admissionado.com.