Author: Beth Morgan, Executive Director

What are my odds applying to the top MBA programs?

One of the most frequent questions we get is: What are my “chances” at getting into that top school? In order to help our applicants gain a better picture of the MBA admissions landscape, we looked through our historical data to draw some rough conclusions about what applicants can expect when applying to various business schools. First, some caveats…

  1. There are lots of intangibles in MBA admissions. For example, different admissions offices value different traits and characteristics in their candidates and weigh certain data points differently. Getting admitted is not a pure numbers game. Rather, hard data points often reflect conditions that are requirements/prerequisites but are not, in and of themselves, sufficient for admission.
  2. The information below is not a complete picture of veteran applicants. In fact, it isn’t even a complete picture of the S2S veteran applicant pool. The charts below are based off of self-reported data taken from our 2015-2016 exit surveys (n=50) that represent a very broad cross-section of military applicants. Additionally, our applicant alumni pool is disproportionately made up of service academy graduates relative to various other commissioning sources and enlisted backgrounds. However, the sixth and seventh charts below provide some insight into how undergraduate pedigree can influence outcomes.
  3. When it comes to admissions, a double blind controlled study is virtually impossible. In other words, correlation does not and should not be taken to imply causation.
  4. When we denote M7 or T16 in the charts below they are defined as the following:

M7 = Harvard, Stanford, Penn (Wharton), Northwestern (Kellogg), Chicago (Booth), Columbia, and MIT (Sloan)

T16 (Poets and Quants Ranking) = M7+ UC-Berkeley (Haas), Dartmouth (Tuck), Yale SOM, Duke (Fuqua), Virginia (Darden), Michigan (Ross), UCLA (Anderson), Cornell (Johnson), New York (Stern)

Additionally, when we denote admits to T16 schools, it is specifically in reference to those applicants admitted to T16 schools but not admitted to M7 schools.


Now to the fun stuff…


Our data shows GMAT/GRE test scores are one of the best indicators of success. Even for military applicants, a high test score is important. This is a great example of a necessary but not sufficient condition. Many schools divide applications into “buckets” based on industry (i.e. consulting, banking, government, non-profit, etc). Tangibly, this means that, while your military experience and background make you unique as an applicant, you are effectively competing against other military applicants—in some cases, this bucket encompasses international military applicants as well. There is a popular notion amongst veterans their military background can help offset weaknesses in GMAT – while we don’t have sufficient data to prove or disprove this, we do see GMAT scores correlate strongly with veteran success. So, whether or not veterans have a lower GMAT bar to cross, they are still heavily evaluated on that metric relative to other veterans.

S2S has partnered with Veritas Prep and Manhattan Prep to provide S2S applicants with the best possible resources for attaining a high GMAT/GRE score at a significantly discounted price. Please contact your ambassador if you are interested in taking advantage of these resources.


Below you’ll find the data broken down further by school by mean, median, and range (practicing those quant skills!). We found a couple interesting trends when we created the following model. First, at M7 + T16 schools, the discrepancy between S2S admits’ median vs. respective schools’ published is fairly minimal. However, outside of M7 +T16 schools, the difference between those two figures begins to diverge considerably. This is somewhat unexpected because for lower-tier schools with lower yield (i.e. the percentage of admits that end up matriculating), admit scores tend to be considerably higher than enrolled scores. Here we see the opposite. In other words, if the GMAT/GRE seems to be an impossible hurdle for you, schools just outside the T16 may be strong safety school options for veterans.



Obviously, higher is better, and the data shows higher GPA scores are positively correlated with admission to target schools. However, the data surprisingly shows undergrad GPA, while important, does not immediately reduce an applicant’s odds of success as much as GMAT/GRE scores despite GPAs being relatively farther from the published incoming class medians, especially at M7 schools.




No surprise here. While military applicants come from many different undergraduate institutions, those who come from service academies and top 50 schools (i.e. US News and World Report Top 50) fare much better (as a function of applicants within their pedigree cohort) at T-16 schools.


However, graduates from non-service academies and non-US top 50 schools who have strong GMAT and GPAs find as much success as their service academy and US top 50 counterparts.



Finally, we see that undergraduate STEM majors fare slightly better than other majors, but that shouldn’t dictate what applicants major in if he/she is a veteran currently in undergrad. There are many factors we didn’t account for in this model. For example, it may not necessarily be the fact that STEM backgrounds influence higher rates of admissions, but it’s possible that STEM majors are more inclined to have stronger quantitative abilities and higher GMAT scores, which did in fact influence their admission decision. In short, correlation does not equal causation.




Age matters in MBA admissions. The median age of MBA classes is generally getting younger at most schools. However, S2S applicants find success despite being older than their civilian peers. Anecdotally, we’ve seen that this trend is even more pronounced if an applicant comes from an aviation or special operations background as admissions officers are generally aware of their career track and minimum service obligations.





S2S applicants enjoyed remarkable success at M7 schools (40+% at Columbia, MIT, & Wharton to 50+% at Booth & Kellogg) in addition to T16 schools this past year. Keep in mind, this data set does not account for the assessed competitiveness of applicants. In other words, the data points don’t discriminate the finer details of an applicant’s admission/ding whether he/she had an 800 GMAT, 4.0 GPA, Ivy League/SOF background (i.e. highly competitive for M7) or a 500 GMAT, 2.0 GPA at an online non-accredited institution (not competitive for M7). Some non-competitive applicants applied to reach schools and got dinged while some highly competitive applicants applied to back up schools and got admitted. In short, the model below is a very broad snapshot of S2S success stories from this past year (when exit surveys were introduced).




Everyone’s story and application is different but we hope this has given you an idea of the landscape and the competitiveness of your application relative to other military applicants.

S2S is made up of awesome volunteer ambassadors who are eager to help fellow veterans get into the best school possible. There is no cost for our services. If you’d like to receive free application guidance and mentorship, please sign up here! We are here to help!

David Lee, Co-Director of MBA Operations, was commissioned through the NROTC program at the University of Michigan and graduated with degrees in Political Science and History. He was stationed in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii with 1st Battalion, 12th Marines where he served as a platoon commander, the assistant operations officer, and the operations officer. David is currently serving with 3rd ANGLICO as a Firepower Control Team Leader and will be pursuing his MBA at the Stanford Graduate School of Business upon completion of his service.

A Singaporean native, Gary Ng came to the United States for his undergrad after serving two years of military service in his home country as a combat signaler. He received his M.B.A. from Chicago Booth and B.A. in mathematics and economics from Connecticut College, a small liberal arts college located right across the street from Coast Guard Academy. After brief stints at an investment bank and a management consulting firm, Gary ultimately decided his true passion lies in data analytics. He’s currently a Data Scientist at Rocketmiles, an online travel website that helps customers earn airline loyalty miles while booking hotels. 

Andrew Hanson: My Story…

I was going nowhere. At least, that is what some people thought.

Iraq1You see, I started out in high school as an honors student but ended as a dropout. I had made a detour from the path of a traditional student. This deviation from the plan did not happen overnight; it was the result of a series of bad decisions on my part and the lack of a stable environment at home.  This, of course, was not what I had envisioned for my life. It was, however, a much-needed reality check. I did not want to be another statistic. I did not want to be a failure. I knew I was capable of more. The Marine Corps would be my path to redemption.

TOW The military was always one of my interests as a kid and it remained an option for me, considering my circumstances. If I were going to join the military, however, I did not want just any branch of service. I wanted the most challenging experience available, and for me, this was the Marines. Since I was a high school dropout, my recruiter instructed me to complete my GED and fifteen units of college courses in order to enlist. I did just that: I moved out of the environment I was in, I completed the tasks he had given me, and I was on my way to becoming a Marine.

I gained a lot from my time in the Marine Corps. Boot camp was my cocoon, so to speak; it was the beginning of my transformation as I went in as one person and came out a new and improved version – a Marine. My time in the infantry furthered my development. Undeniably, joining a profession where people want to kill you and your job is to kill them first is a transformative experience for a young man. The Marine Corps taught me valuable life lessons about disciplineMarines1, courage, determination, and commitment. In order to succeed and, indeed, survive in the infantry, one must possess these qualities. After four years of service and two deployments, I have become the man I am today.

Towards the end of my service, I used these acquired attributes as I prepared for life as a civilian. My wife encouraged me to finish my education, so I began taking online courses. Surprisingly enough to me, I did very well. This gave me hope for life after the military. I decided I was going to get out and finish my education. Despite my recent success, I was still nervous about becoming a “classroom student” after such a long time away from the traditional school environment. In true Marine Corps spirit, however, I hit the ground running.

Social RecentAfter having been stationed in California for four years, my wife and I decided to remain there after I was discharged from active duty. I had thirty-three college units under my belt at the time, so I was not considered a freshman applicant. I was also unfamiliar with the higher education process beyond the online courses I took while on active duty. I enrolled at the local community college intending to obtain the sixty units required to transfer to one of the state universities. I was hesitant at first, but soon found I had a lot of potential – potential I intended to realize.

They say luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Well, I became very lucky. While at community college, I used the skills I gained in the Marines to apply to my studies. I worked the graveyard shift full-time as a security guard, I got involved in various extracurricular activities, and I even served on my community college district’s Board of Trustees. One day I received a letter from Columbia University’s School of General Studies about their transfer program. I knew Columbia University was a big deal, but I did not think places like Columbia took people like me – a high school drop out at a community college. After some research, I realized many of the schools I thought were out of my league did, in fact, accept transfer students from community college. With this knowledge, I cast a wider net when applying to four-year universities.

I applied to UC San Diego, UCLA, Berkeley, Stanford, and Harvard. This was before I knew about services like Service to School – but what I did know was that veterans are always willing to help our fellow brothers and sisters. As I did research about these universities, I came across a veterans group at Stanford. I sent them an email asking for information about the university. What I got in return was a support network willing to give me some of their time to help me succeed. Two veterans in particular were willing to speak with me on the phone and even help review my various essays – turning my military experience into marketable language. I truly think their help was a big factor in my getting accepted to Stanford. I have tried to pay that forward ever since.

Stanford GradThere was a strong military presence at Stanford. I had classes with both veterans and active duty members. I also had classes taught by military officers. My last year at Stanford, General Mattis actually became a fellow there. There was a vibrant ROTC program on campus as well. I became friends with some of the veterans at the law school, as that was my next goal. It was through these veterans I learned about Service to School. I volunteered my time as an Ambassador for a little while, and I’ve directed many veterans to the Service to School website. I continued to apply the work ethic I gained from the military and I did well at Stanford. As a result, I was able to get accepted to many great law schools. I have since joined Harvard Law School’s class of 2017.

There is a vibrant military community here at Harvard as well. We have many military themed events, social outings, and networking opportunities. It is a valuable support network to have. With one year left, I feel truly grateful to be where I am today. I am grateful for my time in the Marines, the brothers and sisters I have gained, and the help they have provided me with along this journey.

There was a time when a college degree was unfathomable for me – let alone degrees from Stanford and Harvard. Yet, here I am. What I hope that means, for any veterans and active duty members reading this, is that anything is possible. I wish there were more enlisted veterans in the ranks of Stanford and Harvard. Professional HeadshotSince those of us from the enlisted ranks do not have West Point or Annapolis in our backgrounds, we may think “elite” universities are out of our range. but I hope my experience illustrates they are not. In fact, I believe our life experiences make us desirable applicants who can enrich the student body and help us succeed in our own academic endeavors. I hope to see more veterans pursuing their education and not selling themselves short. If I had held onto the belief I did not “belong” at a great university – or any university for that matter – I would not have applied. I would not be where I am today, but, instead, I gave it a shot. I encourage you all to do the same, and I hope you make use of the natural support network we have in veterans on campus and groups like Service to School.


Q & A with Patricia Wei, Director of Admissions for Yale’s Eli Whitney Students Programs

Yale University was founded in 1701, and has been a center for academic excellence ever since. As a VetLink partner, Yale works with Service to School to identify competitive applicants. We interviewed Patricia Wei, Director of Admissions for Yale’s Eli Whitney Students Programs, so prospective veteran applicants know better what to expect from both the application process and life as a student at Yale.

Q1. What qualities do veterans possess which could make them a good fit as incoming students at Yale?

Yale welcomes applications from veterans. Veterans add much to the Yale community by providing perspectives that are often different than those of traditional undergraduates. Veterans’ life and professional experiences add to the intellectual discussions both inside and outside of the classroom. They tend to be self-motivated, resourceful, confident, intellectually curious and mature.

Q2. What can a veteran do to make his or her application more competitive?

If a veteran has not taken any academic classes recently, then I would strongly encourage them to take college courses at a local college before submitting their applications to Yale. They should take classes similar to the liberal arts and science courses offered at Yale, especially classes that would enhance their writing and quantitative skills. We do not recommend they take online classes as those are not transferable. Presenting strong recent academic credentials would enhance their chances of admission.

Q3. What would you say to a veteran who doesn’t feel he or she would be competitive at Yale?

If a veteran feels Yale is the right fit and he/she can show strong recent academic performance, then I would encourage the veteran to submit an application to Yale. That said, with an acceptance rate of below 10%, most applicants are not offered admission to Yale. If someone is not offered admission, it does not mean the Admissions Committee feels the student would not necessarily thrive on our campus. It simply reflects our extraordinarily deep applicant pool. I would encourage all prospective Yale students to apply to a range of colleges with different admissions selectivity, and not to just one or two schools. There isn’t just one college that would be the right match. We are blessed in this country with many wonderful institutions of higher education.

Q4. Once at Yale, does the university have additional resources for veterans?

I am thrilled Yale has recently announced the appointment of Jack Beecher, our first Veterans Liaison. Jack will serve as Yale’s central point of contact in supporting our faculty, students, staff and alumni who are military veterans.  Jack will assist our veterans in accessing services and resources both within and external to Yale.  He will work with various constituencies to develop and coordinate processes to enhance veterans’ experiences at Yale.

Currently all veterans who are undergraduates at Yale are enrolled in our Eli Whitney Students Program for nontraditional students. This is a very small program with only 25 students, and they receive excellent guidance and advice from their residential college deans and the Director of the EWSP. Our current veterans also serve as peer support for incoming veterans and for each other.

There is a VA Hospital in West Haven, only a few miles away from the Yale campus, and it is on the Yale shuttle bus route.

Yale participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program GI Education Enhancement Program.

There is also an active Yale Veteran’s Association on campus.


Do you have questions about the admissions process and want to learn more about S2S VetLink?

Fill out our contact form below.

Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day. Americans have commemorated variations of this holiday for nearly a century, dedicating our nation to the pursuit of peace and reaffirming our commitment to those who have sacrificed for our nation.

Long after the heroes’ parades are over and the yellow ribbons are put away, America’s veterans often face an uncertain future when they return home. Service to School hopes to change that by connecting members of our armed forces and veterans to the higher educational opportunities available to them.

We provide academic mentoring, standardized test preparation and networking with many of the country’s exemplary colleges and universities. We teach veterans how they can harness their unique experiences in our military when applying for and completing their higher education. We help give them the confidence to pursue their dreams – dreams to improve their lives and the lives of their families.

But, we can’t do this alone. We need your help. If you are looking for a special way to honor the enormous contributions our armed forces have made to keep us safe and free, please consider giving to Service to School. Your donation is tax deductible, and it will help our qualified veterans receive the education they deserve.

Please consider giving today. Click here to donate.

From Military to Medicine – Creating Your Narrative

By AJ Elumn

Are you a veteran interested in medicine and think that not having served in a healthcare-related MOS or rate works against you? I’m happy to tell you that you’re wrong! If you’re genuinely interested in medicine and can provide proof that you’ve tested this interest, your military experience will serve as an incredible asset for building your primary essay.

The first thing to think about is how to explain what drove you toward medicine. This explanation can be guided by a seed that was planted before you enlisted or commissioned, or could have developed by some of the things you’ve done or seen while serving. For the late bloomers (myself included), the drive toward medicine could have evolved from your experiences as an undergraduate student and volunteer, but retrospectively reinforced by your time in service. The point? It’s never too late, and with proper planning, an interest in medicine doesn’t have to seem too soon.

Note, however, that this isn’t a suggestion that veteran applicants are waived from obtaining healthcare experience. While medics and corpsmen will have a wealth of relevant experience to pull from, those of us who don’t are still able to gain this through entry-level jobs (medical assistant, EMT, scribing), shadowing physicians, and volunteering in in-patient or ER settings. In other words: you’re still going to need some combination of these experiences to verify your interests, and because you’re not precluded from getting them, you should get them. Don’t engage in these opportunities to check the box; do them because you earnestly want to feel out what direct patient interactions are like. Do them because you weren’t sure about medicine. Do them because you want to learn more about what you’re getting yourself into. Do them because you genuinely want to serve people – that’s a statement that ought to resonate with ANY veteran.

What about the military itself? Military experience is an excellent way to kick off a narrative of reinvention and maturity. For those of us who were academically diligent, you can focus on how well-rounded your education was and how you sought challenges reserved for our nation’s bravest and brightest. In either case, you’ll bring up the core values that have been integrated into your life and how you’ve been tested. What you won’t do is be apologetic for your service no matter your specialty – I don’t recommend bringing up what you believe are conflicts with medicine only to try to resolve them in paragraph form. Tell us instead about how the military helped create the individual you are today, and the physician you will be “tomorrow” (realistically, at least 7 years later!) because of it.

There’s a lot to say, and many ways to say it, when writing your primary essay. Here are some ideas for great starting material as you think about putting it together: What do your honors, awards, and decorations citations read? Where have you been and what missions have you been a part of? What ancillary duties did you accept in addition to your primary ones? How do your performance reports read? A successful veteran and serious medical school applicant will be able to build a strong narrative with military service as an asset to, if not the center of, the essay.

Lastly, every detail matters, but not every detail belongs on the essay. Use your essay to hook an interview invitation by including the most powerful and pertinent parts of your background, but consider saving the specifics for the interview. The same details that can obfuscate the message of your written essay might better serve you by instead allowing you to speak articulately about your military background.

Carry on!

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