Mar 09, 2017

To Veterans: Myths about the Tuck MBA, Debunked

Tuck MBA Candidate Jarett Berke T'17By Jarett Berke T’17

Jarett is a second-year student and a former USMC pilot.

Hosted by the Tuck Veterans Club, Tuck Military Visit Day, themed “Setting You Up for Success," will be Monday, May 1, 2017. During the event, you’ll get a chance to see what distinguishes Tuck among top-tier business schools and what you need to know to transition from the military into the right MBA program. Register here.

The thought of applying to an MBA program and separating from the military can be intimidating. For years, we have had a steady paycheck backed by the U.S. Government, where layoffs were improbable and pay raises and promotions happened on a schedule. We’ve established ourselves within our respective communities, and our families have developed close relationships with others in our commands, squadrons, or platoons. As you think about separating, it is hard to judge whether you’ll get into a school that you want to attend or if you’ll find your dream job two years later. Having been in your shoes and speaking with prospective veteran students with similar concerns, I think it may be useful to cover some of the most common myths that I hear about both the MBA and Tuck. So here it goes:

Myth: Being older puts you at a disadvantage. 

Totally false for two reasons. First, the Admissions department is really trying to ensure that applicants have the minimum level of experience (not maximum). They realize that there are natural transition points in our careers, and often that makes us a few years older than the average non-military applicant—and that is completely normal. Second, the maturity, experience, and poise that often comes with age are a major benefit to your classmates and the school. If anything, I would say that being older is actually an advantage.     

Myth: My partner won’t be able to find a job.

Untrue. There may not be as many companies in the Upper Valley as New York or Boston, but there is certainly a need for smart, driven, and hard-working people. Unemployment in the area last year got down to 1.9%, and there is no shortage of really interesting companies. A quick search on a job posting webpage probably won’t show much, but that doesn’t mean jobs aren’t available. Many partners end up working for Tuck, Dartmouth, or the hospital, and there are scores of very successful small businesses always in need to high quality people. If your partner reaches out to the Tuck Partner Network, he/she can get tied into the job market early.

Myth: My GMAT score is the most important part of my application.

Wrong. The GMAT is just one piece of the puzzle, and you should think of it as a hurdle. If your GMAT is very weak, your application may not be seriously considered. On average, veterans’ GMAT scores are on the left side of the distribution. There is no magic number, but you want to be in the middle-80 percent range or else you need to bring something to the table that makes you really valuable. Additionally, Admissions also recommends practicing the GRE to see which one best highlights your abilities. Ultimately, the Admissions department looks at the whole person, including: experience, essays, interview, GPA, GMAT (or GRE), and career goals. Make sure you focus on all aspects of your candidacy, not just the GMAT.

Myth: A part-time MBA is equally as valuable.

I disagree. Part-time or “executive” MBAs are great for people who want to take the next step in a career they ARE ALREADY IN. If you are pivoting (like all veterans), a top-tier full-time MBA puts you in a different population. You become an MBA with a military background, not a military person with an MBA. This may sound trivial, but it makes a big difference to employers. Plus, taking two years to focus on yourself is an opportunity you may never have again.

Myth: Getting an MBA if you have kids is not ideal.

False. I have three kids, and this has been the best two years of our lives. About half the vets here have kids and our friend group is very strong. I think being a father makes me more disciplined with my time than many of my single classmates, and I have spent more time with my family than I ever have and probably ever will. You may accrue a bit more debt if you have kids, but your potential future earnings far exceed what they would be without a top-tier MBA. My kids love our neighborhood and school so much that they have pretty much refused to leave—so we’re staying here after graduation. The Hanover/Norwich schools are some of the best in the nation, it’s safe, and the people here are very nice. Getting an MBA if you have kids may not be ideal in New York or Boston, but it has been an amazing experience in Hanover, NH, and I would choose this path again if I had the chance.

Myth: Vets don’t add much value to study groups.

Incorrect. Military officers spend their careers making important decisions with limited information. We figure stuff out. We are quick learners, and we can get things done. The courses in business school go deep on a range of topics, and while there may be a few topics that someone in your group has experience in, the majority of the curriculum is new to everyone. Your ability to learn quickly, figure things out, and communicate effectively make you VERY valuable to the teams you are a part of.

Myth: Tuck is a consulting school.

Not really. The third largest employer last year was Amazon. You’re right, we send a lot to the big consulting firms, but tech, banks, health care, and general management roles are just as popular.

Myth: You probably don’t need snow tires in Hanover, NH.

Ridiculous! Snow tires can turn a Porsche into a little snow crushing machine. Spend a little extra on snow tires and some good outdoor apparel, and the cold season will become your winter wonderland.  Okay, this isn’t a myth I come across often, but seriously, snow tires are worth it.