The thought of going to college for the first time can be very daunting for veterans as they face the challenges of reentering the civilian world. This is equally true for those who are considering grad school. For many, it has been years since they took their last college course. If it weren’t for the fact that an advanced degree can mean greater income and expanded career opportunities, the idea of textbooks, long study hours, assignment deadlines, and (dare I say it) homework, on top of the transition stresses of job-hunting and relocating, would be enough to scare anyone off.
Fear not -- the following article features advice and tips for veterans who are considering going back to school to earn their master’s degree in business administration, from two veterans who recently faced the same challenges most veterans face when going back to school.
Current Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania student and military veteran Joe Kistler offers the following advice for those veterans who are still undecided about taking on the MBA challenge: “I really encourage veterans to understand the opportunities that are available for MBA's after graduation,” he says.
Joe’s advice is to keep the prize in mind. “Military veterans should have an idea what they want to do after the MBA program.” This is important for the admissions process because focusing on a goal will help them stick to the task when you face the inevitable difficulties and distractions life throws at all grad school students.
Joe also offers advice on how to ensure your admissions application and resume get noticed. “I would encourage military veterans to read their resumes and ask themselves ‘If I were a civilian, with no military experience, would I understand what this says?’” Joes adds, “All veteran MBA applicants need to write their resumes using as much civilian terminology and plain-speak as possible.”
The above is also true for those applying for a job; resumes that are filled with military jargon and don't make much sense to a person who has no military experience often hit the round file, meaning they have no chance at an interview.
Aaron Perrine, a veteran and current student at the Wharton School, offers the following advice on networking with other veterans: “The most important thing is to reach out early to other vets who are already in the program you’re thinking of attending.” Aaron adds, “At Wharton, we get nearly 25 messages a week through our website (http://www.whartonveterans.org/) from current vets, and we get back to everyone -- we have current students who work with prospective applicants from each service.
“For me, it was incredibly helpful to talk with another Army veteran who understood my experiences and how to present them in my application. It was during those conversations when I started to think ‘Hey, these guys are just like me – I can make this happen.’”
Aaron also points out that it doesn’t matter what your military experience is. “We have SEALs, Rangers, Marine infantry officers, submariners, pilots, logistics specialists, and medical officers.” An MBA is a great next step for transitioning veterans no matter what branch of service they come from.