Transitioning from the military to MBA is a fairly popular path to follow. A little over 4% of MBA applications come from military veterans. When looking at the data comparing military applicants to traditional MBA applicants, a few trends become clear:
- Military / Veteran applicants tend to be a year or two older.
- Scores for military applicants are a little lower on average, about 15 points on the GMAT and about .15 for GPA
- Military applicants on average have another year or two of work experience
- Military MBA acceptance rate is about 50% higher than the acceptance rate for traditional applicants
- Some schools have a very large advantage for military applicants while others have little to no advantage
For the purposes of this article, I define traditional applicants as individuals that have worked in finance, marketing, accounting, retail, STEM and healthcare. They make up around 86% percent of MBA applicants. I excluded applicants that had a background in education, entertainment, sports, hospitality, tourism, human resources, journalism, publishing, government and non-profit.
Military applicants on average have the highest acceptance rate despite having the lowest average scores. My hypothesis is that they tend to have more significant leadership experience than other applicants and tend to do well in job placement. They also know how to operate well under pressure. These traits are desirable for MBA programs.
Military MBA Acceptance Rate by Tier
For the purposes of this analysis, I broke the schools into tiers since not all schools have enough data on military applicants to look at individually.
- Tier 1 is defined as the schools ranked 1 through 7: Harvard, Wharton, Booth, Stanford, Sloan, Kellogg and Haas.
- Tier 2 is defined as schools ranked 8 through 14: Tuck, Yale, Columbia, Ross, Stern, Fuqua and Darden.
- Tier 3 is defined as schools ranked 15 through 25: Anderson, Johnson, McCombs, Kenan-Flagler, Tepper, Goizueta, McDonough, Kelley, Olin, Marshall, Carey and Owen.
As you can see, military applicants have a substantial advantage at tier 1, 2 and 3 schools. The tier with largest lift is actually tier 1, which has a 62% higher acceptance rate for military applicants compared to traditional applicants. Military applicants had a 58% higher acceptance rate for Tier 2 schools and 49% for tier 3. Military applicants had the smallest score gap for tier 1 schools and the largest gap for tier 3 where military applicants had a GMAT that is 24 points lower.
Military MBA Acceptance Rate Lift
|Harvard University (HBS)|
|University of Michigan—Ann Arbor (Ross)|
|Duke University (Fuqua)|
|University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan)|
|Northwestern University (Kellogg)|
|Columbia University (CBS)|
|Dartmouth College (Tuck)|
|University of Texas—Austin (McCombs)|
|University of Virginia (Darden)|
|University of Chicago (Booth)|
The chart above shows how much higher the acceptance rate for military applicants is compared to traditional applicants. Harvard had the highest lift, where military applicants are more than twice as likely to get accepted. At the other end of the spectrum is Booth, where military applicants only have a 11% advantage over traditional applicants. My advice for military applicants is to apply to Ross and Duke. They are really strong schools with a greater than 50% chance of admission. I only included schools where there is enough data.
I looked at the acceptance rates for the other schools but there wasn’t enough data to publish an actual number. So I grouped them into categories.
- Schools with a large lift ( greater than 70%): Haas, Emory, Tepper, and Kelley
- Schools with a medium lift (30% to 60%): Stern, Anderson, Johnson, and Marshall.
- Schools with little to no lift (lower than 30%): Stanford, Georgetown, Olin, Owen, Carey, UNC, and Yale.
I plan to do a similar analysis for other non-traditional applicants in the near future.