UC Berkeley Haas School of Business | Groups
 

Contact Us for More Detailed and Tailored Advice

If you have any questions about applying to Haas or you are planning to visit us on campus, please visit the "Contact Us" page, introduce yourself, and send us any questions you might have.  We will put you in touch with the most relevant member of our club.  We look forwared to hearing from you!

Application Process

Start early.  As you start looking at schools, reach out to the Veterans clubs, which should be able to give you insight into their school and help you tailor your application.  Consider that your fellow civilian classmates will have gotten advice from coworkers who have already gone through this process and earned their MBAs.  You should use your resources, including this club and its alumni, to do the same.

Your Narrative 

This is the single most important part of your business school application.  As you write your essays, you will need to come up with compelling reasons/answers for: why an MBA, why this school, why now, what you bring to the table, and how this school will help you reach your career goals.  This takes time and should be tailored to individual schools.  This is easier with three or four stories that relate your transferrable skills and that your grandmother would understand.  In writing these stories, you have to assume that the person reading you application has no understanding of what the military does, what your job was, and what you actually accomplished.  They should probably not read like your evaluation reports and may be largely unrelated to it.  Develop your personal “value proposition” (i.e. what makes your military leadership experience unique) and focus on highlighting aspects of your background that are “business school relevant.”  All the while, be conscious of the commonly held stereotypes of military-style leadership (e.g. hierarchical, authoritative, etc). 

As far as a career path goes, they need to know that you have put some thought into it.  If asked in an interview, you need to be convincing.  The admissions committee will be looking at your application through the eyes of potential employers – “Is this applicant someone we will be able to place?”  That said you are not tied to that path once you are accepted.  A lot of your classmates will use their MBA degrees to make a career transition.  With a military background, consulting, operations, and general management roles seem to be the most common options, but there are many others to consider as well.  Regardless of the path, it will be in your best interest to start networking early and talk to people who have followed career paths that potentially interest you. Finding a Veteran to speak with is preferred, as he or she has faced the similar challenge of transitioning and will likely be willing to offer another Veteran more candid advice.  If your plan changes after submitting your application, it may be in your best interest to tailor the existing plan based on something new that you have discovers rather than propose a completely new idea.

As far as industries go and possible options, consider the following example.  If you are a pilot, it means that you might have an advantage in the aerospace/defense industry.  You would not have to go there when you are done with your degree, but it is an option.  In some ways, it is potentially a safer path to follow in the event that nothing else works out.  It is up to you to craft that path and an MBA can make it easier.  But ask around.  Arguably half of an MBA is what takes place outside of the classroom.  You may be able to get the job that you want without getting an MBA and you would want to know that before investing two years of your life.  For example, if you wanted to be an airline pilot, then an MBA may not do a lot of good.   This is one of the reasons that starting the application process earlier is better.  Your story will change the more you figure out and will likely get stronger through the process.  Bottom line, you will need to identify transferrable skills that someone foreign to the military, i.e. the admissions staff or an interviewer, will understand. As you apply to Haas, consider how your narrative fits with the defining principles of the school: question the status quo, confidence without attitude, students always, and beyond yourself.  I would not necessarily be explicit and call these out, but it would be wise for your narrative to be consistent with them. 

Grades

They are what they are at this point and they are one possible indicator of how well you may do in the program.  Generally speaking, it is likely safe to assume that the further away you are from college then the less weight that will be put on them.  If you are concerned about an area on your transcript, consider taking some courses at a local college/university or online.  

GMAT

As far as the GMAT goes, you will want a score that you don't have to talk about and won't make anyone question your ability to handle the MBA curriculum.  Generally, anything above 700 is typically fine, but look at the reported scores for individual schools. As you start the application process, keep in mind that you may need to take the exam more than once, so plan accordingly.  Realize that there is a minimum waiting period between attempts and that taking it more than twice starts to look odd.

Recommendations

Try to have someone write your recommendation who knows you well and who can help you stand out from your peers.  Remember that after reading through your entire application, the reader should have a complete picture of who you are or at least enough of one to invite you in for an interview. Along those lines and if you provide input to the write, which is common, you can use your recommendations to complete that picture and to fill in any gaps.  If you have already completed your essays, you may want to share them with your recommender, so they have a better idea of what you are planning on and keep in mind that one recommendation might be used for multiple schools.  

Remember that your civilian peers are likely having MBA graduates write their recommendations, who likely understand the process and bigger picture better than your military supervisors.  By providing your recommenders with that picture, it may help to level the playing field. If you have not informed your chain of command of your plans to leave the military or your current job, plan it carefully but you may need their support to get a good recommendation.  While it may not be equitable for your evaluation report to suffer once you make the decision to leave, they will not follow you after you leave the military.

Once last note, if you plan on applying to multiple schools, try to send all recommendation requests to each recommender at once.  That way they will all show up at the same time to your recommender's inbox and will be less likely to get lost.  It will also make it easier on your writer.

Interviews

If you have gotten this far, then you should be very pleased with yourself.  If you have not already done so, reach out to the veteran community at that school and try to get some insights from them.  If you are able, try to do an on campus interview, which will give you an opportunity to meet the type of students that you would be spending two years of your life with. You also should be able to sit in on a class and/or have lunch with a veteran.

The interview itself will be stressful, which is something that your time in the service should make you comfortable with.  Recall that this is an opportunity for you to fill in any gaps in your application or changes to your plans (hopefully keep those minor).  There are lots of resources online for the standard questions, but it is best to practice these and your essays out loud.  You are not going to have a lot of time, so be prepared.  The STAR method (situation, task, action, result) method can work well and, again, consider that your interviewer may be unfarmiliar with the military.  

Digital Media and Networking

Throughout this process and during your professional career, people will look for you on social networks and you don't want this to raise any concerns.  One recommendation would be to scrub your Facebook profile and check the privacy settings.  You also should consider getting a LinkedIn profile, which is a good way to keep track of your professional network and to research companies.  Search for veterans at companies or from schools that you would be interested in and reach out to them.  You should be able to see the profiles of Haas students on our Members page.

Final Points

Lastly, the rank of the school and the characteristics of the alumni network do matter.  But you will want to pick a school that is right for you in terms of focus, strengths, location, teaching, culture, and size (to name a few).  For example, if you’re interested in technology or entrepreneurship, the Bay Area is a great place to be.  You can drive down the road to any number of companies and network much easier than you could at a lot of other schools.

We look forward to working with you as you get to know Haas and as you make your transition, regardless of where (or if) you get your MBA.  

 

Best regards and good luck,

Haas Veterans Club Members & Alumni