Veteran MBA Applicants Need These School Research Tips

veteran MBA applicants

Graduate management education provides many benefits for veteran MBA applicants. Besides the skills-building and networking opportunities, it can be an incredible launchpad for a civilian career. Top business schools admire the leadership skills, grit, and discipline these MBA applicants typically possess. Also, military veterans have often had more practical leadership experience than most MBA students.

Yet some veterans don’t see the correlation between their military experiences and those needed to lead a Fortune 500 company. Don’t let that be you! In 2022, Harvard Business School asked members of its Armed Forces Alumni Association to share advice for other military members considering an MBA.

Here’s what Christy Talisse (MBA ’23), who spent eight years in the US Navy as a Weapons Systems Officer, had to say:

“Don’t self-select out! Studying at Harvard had always been a dream of mine, but I never thought I’d be “worthy.” My husband encouraged me to apply and told me I owed it to myself to try. I hope you’ll do the same. Take your moonshot.”

Military service members typically make up 5% to 10% of any given cohort in the top 25 programs. If you’re considering a transition from active military service to business school, begin your research by finding out how each of the programs measures up in the following areas.

Curious about your chances of getting into a top B-school as a veteran MBA applicant? We have ample experience with this applicant pool and numerous success stories to share.  Contact us to talk strategy with a free 15-minute advising session with an SBC Principal Consultant.

veteran MBA applicants

Veteran MBA Applicants Should Explore Culture and Fit

All applicants should consider whether the business schools that interest them are good fits as far as class size, teaching method, location, and general culture are concerned. However, a good fit is even more critical for veteran MBA applicants.

Their background is quite different from most candidates, and going from active service to a classroom can be challenging. Having strong outlets of support from the school makes a world of difference.

Listen to B-Schooled Podcast Episode #159: Leadership Lessons from a Navy Seal/Stanford GSB Grad

Begin by finding out how many military veteran students are in the MBA program. Too few fellow servicemen and women may leave students wishing for more relatable peers. Next, find out what kinds of special programs for veterans exist.

Does the business school have student clubs or organizations created specifically for veterans? Also, learn whether it offers personalized academic and career support to help veterans translate their military skills into civilian life. Reach out to current students for their honest feedback about daily life in the program. Listen for details beyond what you see on the school website or hear from admissions officers.

Veteran MBA applicants can also check out specialized programs, such as Emory Goizueta’s Master in Business for Veterans. Created specifically for military veterans, active duty, National Guard, and Reserve personnel, the program helps veterans leverage their management and leadership experience from the military and pair it with business knowledge. In just 11 months, candidates are ready to launch into a successful career in the business world.

Consider Recruiting Efforts and Admissions Guidance 

Another sign of a military-friendly school is whether it hosts MBA admissions events or offers targeted application advice for veteran MBA applicants. To get started, you can:

The Fertitta program at NYU Stern School of Business gets high marks for its comprehensive support of military veterans. In a recent post about his experience on the school’s MBA admissions blog, veteran Benjamin Davies says, “From the outside looking in, I thought the Fertitta program was too good to be true.”

“NYU Stern truly stood out in the way that it supported its veterans in such meaningful ways. The program deliberately bridged the gaps that most veterans inherently have when transitioning to corporate America.

“The Fertitta program allows veterans to take Financial Accounting and Statistics – requisite 3.0-credit core classes— over the summer, which reduces the course load during the fall, and ultimately enables us to focus more on recruiting and securing a summer internship. During the summer semester, the veteran cohort also had the opportunity to participate in company treks to tour offices and meet Stern veteran graduates who were working in top-level companies.

“The final piece of the Fertitta program is the financial aspect which greatly assists the change in lifestyle that all full-time students undertake. Looking back on the experience, I was also able to build incredible bonds with my veteran cohort from an early stage and give me a close circle of friends that I can always rely on.”

Veteran MBA applicants

And if there’s no affinity outreach for veterans?

If the school doesn’t host an admissions event specifically for veteran MBA applicants, your job is a bit tougher. However, you can still determine how eager the program is to recruit veterans by looking at whether it provides support services starting during the application phase—not only once you get in.

Finally, see if the school offers deferment flexibility to candidates whose needs may suddenly change if still on active duty.

Look into Financial Aid

The high cost of business school often deters veteran MBA applicants. Many already have families of their own, and the concern over lost wages while studying cannot be overstated.

However, many financial incentives exist specifically for this group. For starters, lots of MBA programs—including HBS—waive the application fee for active duty applicants. Your actual out-of-pocket expense goes down dramatically once you factor in Veterans Affairs benefits, dedicated veterans scholarships, waived application fees, and the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Under this program, the federal government matches, dollar for dollar, any financial aid that participating schools commit. This essentially provides eligible student veterans with free or reduced-cost tuition. It is designed to make out-of-state public colleges, private institutions, and graduate programs more affordable for veterans.

The Yellow Ribbon Promise

Schools offer varying levels of support under the Yellow Ribbon Program.  For example, NYU Stern School of Business will offer up to $31,600 per year in Yellow Ribbon scholarship support, and the VA will provide up to $30,000 in additional funding.

Meanwhile, Stanford GSB will match up to full tuition and mandatory fees (minus Stanford medical insurance) for veteran MBA applicants who are Yellow Ribbon eligible and opt to receive these benefits.

Visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website to learn whether the business school limits the number of recipients eligible annually—some are unlimited—and to see the exact dollar amount of the maximum school contribution per student, per year.

Finally, check out this evergreen four-part series from 2020 on Transitioning to a Top-Tier MBA from the Military Money Matters site.  Written by a Wharton admit who received admissions offers from six out of seven top MBA programs, it offers tons of useful information for veterans applying to b-school.

Veteran MBA applicants should know that business school admissions teams prize their experience. So, if that’s your background, make sure your applications highlight those powerful and unique qualities.


Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs. From our All-In Partnership to interview prep, essay editing, resume review, and much more, we’ve got you covered. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant. 

Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.

SBC’s star-studded consultant team is unparalleled. Our clients benefit from current intelligence that we receive from the former MBA Admissions Officers from Harvard HBS, Wharton and every elite business program in the US and Europe.  These MBA Admissions Officers have chosen to work exclusively with SBC.

Just two of the many superstars on the SBC team:
Meet Anthony, who served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he dedicated over 10 years of expertise.

Meet Andrea, who served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions Marketing at Harvard Business School (HBS) for over five years.

Tap into this inside knowledge for your MBA applications by requesting a consultation.


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