Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from, where did you go to college and when did you graduate; and what prior degrees do you hold?
ArmyJMO: Don’t want to be too specific until I finalize my school choices, so I graduated in 2005 with one liberal arts major and one business major from a college in NYC.
Accepted: One of your first blog posts talks about why you think pursuing an MBA is a good plan for a JMO (Junior Military Officer). Can you summarize your thoughts on that here?
ArmyJMO: From a practical perspective: I’m generalizing a bit here but without a doubt, the best jobs and/or the highest-paying jobs require a top MBA program.
From a personal perspective: JMOs can learn a lot about how civilians plan, execute, and manage ideas and projects. It provides a complementary set of skills that JMOs lack. Also, there are just topics that JMOs don’t learn in the Army, like accounting and finance, which is pretty useful for all managers.
Accepted: You say that you applied to 15 different programs. That’s a lot! Did you try narrowing down your selection? How did you do so?
ArmyJMO: I didn’t have any geographic constraints. The GI Bill pays the bulk of the tuition for any program so cost wasn’t a concern. Fit was important, but what is most important is to understand the fact that JMOs are competing for a few seats, just like investment bankers compete for investment banking seats. Only 3 schools out of the top 16 don’t provide fee waivers for veterans (Harvard, Stanford, Wharton) so I don’t see why veterans wouldn’t just try to apply to as many as possible. I applied to 14 of the top 16; the 15th was a policy school. It isn’t just my opinion that getting an MBA from a non-top 16 school just isn’t worth it, financially or professionally.
Accepted: Do you have an area of concentration that you’d like to focus on at business school (like marketing, IT, accounting, etc.)?
Accepted: How many times did you take the GMAT? Are you happy with your score?
ArmyJMO: Took it 3 times. Twice after I graduated from college and I scored in the 570’s. Five years later, I got a 680 without studying upon my return from a deployment. I thought this was “good enough” but I was wrong. It was good enough to get 8 interviews but not enough to get interviews/acceptances from the very top schools. In fact, I’m on the waitlist for a few schools, one of which is my top choice and they have asked me to retake the GMAT, which I have signed up to take in June, before the new GMAT kicks in. I just signed up for a GMAT prep course through Veritas Prep.
Accepted: Does cost play a factor in where you’re applying? Do you plan on applying for financial aid or scholarships?
ArmyJMO: Financial aid and scholarships only help with tuition and tuition for veterans who qualify for GI bill are usually fully covered. Fully covered for in-state public schools tuition, the out-of-state difference could be made up through the yellow ribbon program. Veterans will pay a few thousand out of pocket for private schools.
Accepted: What do you plan on doing after you receive your MBA? I also see you’re studying for a CFA — how do you plan on using that towards your career goals?
ArmyJMO: CFA is my insurance should my entrepreneurial journey fail. CFAs make more than MBAs, according to some. MBA is just a networking and start-up fundraising opportunity for me.
Accepted: Why did you choose to blog about the MBA application experience?
ArmyJMO: Because the MBA application experience is pretty inefficient, but I cannot complain because I can’t offer any suggestion for improvement. For example, when I applied for the fall of 2011, I applied to 4 schools, all rejections. This time around, I was way more successful. I’m still the same person. I just knew how to “game” the system a little bit. If I had to do it all over again, I would probably have paid an admission consultant. I was very against doing so when I was in the military, I didn’t know the value of the admission consultant and it looked like a rip off to me. But had I invested that money, I would have known what a competitive profile looked like and would have spent more time doing the GMAT rather than going in without signing up for a course or anything.
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