Author: Tim Hsia, Co-Founder (page 1 of 7)

AAR: A Pilot in Law School

As pilots, we often fly into airports surrounded by fog. In those situations, we make the decision to start our descent from 35,000 feet even though we don’t yet know if we’ll be able to land. The decision to land doesn’t come until 200 feet from the ground. Between 35,000 and 200 feet, even if we can’t see more than a foot in front of our face, we’ll continue the approach as long as our instrumentation tells us we’re still on track. If we stay on track all the way down to 200 feet, we then begin to look for visual cues. If those visual cues are in sight, we land. If not, we abort the approach and “go around.” Attempting to land while either off course or lacking the proper visual cues is the recipe for disaster.

How does this relate to S2S’s ability to help you through the law school application process?

1)   When did you make the decision to attend law school? At 35,000 ft or 200 ft?

The beginning-to-end process of applying to law school is very time consuming. I remember when I first registered for an account on LSAC thinking, “This is it. I’m actually doing it. I’m going to law school as the next chapter in my life.” The thing is, I was still at 35,000 feet in the process and was just starting to begin my descent. There is nothing wrong with the decision to begin the descent into law school, but it can be dangerous to make the full commitment to land when you still have a lot of unknown variables ahead of you that should be taken into account when deciding to attend law school

When I first contacted S2S, I approached them with a flawed mindset of needing to show a 100% commitment to the prospect of going to law school no matter what. Instead what they showed me was the importance of being committed to flying the proper approach (i.e., the application process), but that I didn’t need to make the decision to land (i.e., go to law school) until later. This input came from the standpoint of a fellow veteran who had been in my shoes and knew what it was like to make the decision to transition out of the military and being on a limited timeline in the desire to do so.

With that new mindset, I was able focus on the proper priority: developing the best application possible.

2)    How do you know if you’re flying “on track” to your intended law school(s)?

Pilots have aviation equipment that tells us if we’re on course or how to get back to course if we’re off. Does something similar exist in the law school application process? How do you know if your LSAT study methods are appropriate? Is the intended topic for your personal statement worthwhile? Who have you asked for personal statements?

Sure, you can buy books that provide excellent advice to set you along the right path, but you’ll get the same (and better) advice from S2S’s JD Guide. The real value of S2S during the application process is how your ambassador works with you 1-on-1 to ensure the advice in the S2S JD Application guide is applied to your application. That “live” feedback is what keeps you course.

When I first contacted S2S, my resume and personal statement were complete. At least that’s what I told myself. Looking back at the original resume compared to the one I eventually submitted…well, let’s just say it would have been embarrassing if I submitted the original. The amount of time my ambassador spent reviewing multiple version of my resume truly demonstrates the dedication you’ll find in S2S. The end product was a resume that accurately presented my Air Force career in a concise, logical manner that maximized the value of my experiences.

3)   Even after you’ve determined which law school is right for you, how will you know what visual cues to look for and determine if it’s time to land?

The answer depends on what visual cues you are looking for.  How did you determine which law schools to apply? Was it based solely on USNWR? What happened when you get multiple offers of acceptance? Do you have the ability to visit every single school? What information are you using to determine which school you will ultimately attend?

An advantage of S2S is the ability to put you in contact with fellow vets currently attending your desired schools. Within a week of telling my ambassador of my preferred schools, he was able to put me in contact with other vets. The unfiltered input I gathered during those conversations was priceless. They provided me the details I needed to determine which schools were right for me and which were not. It was candid information that you won’t find on forums or on the school’s website.

Bottom line: Service to School helped me reach my full potential. Even though I had already began my descent by the time I contacted S2S, they helped get me back on course and kept me there through the landing. They gave me the confidence to recognize that getting accepted into law school isn’t difficult. Getting into the right law school that allows me to attain my goals is where I needed to calibrate my focus. It wasn’t a question of if I could get into a law school, it was a matter of getting into the right law school.

Matthew “Ocho” Wilcoxen – After graduating from the United States Air Force Academy in 2002 with a degree in Astronautical Engineering, Matthew completed undergraduate pilot training with the Navy and Air Force. Having served as both a T-6 instructor pilot at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Florida, and a KC-10 combat schoolhouse instructor pilot at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, he has amassed 3,100 flight hours on worldwide missions. Matthew has completed five combat deployments while flying over 900 combat hours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa. He is pursuing law school at Washington University in St. Louis.

5 Resume Tips for Military Spouses

With the average military family moving approximately every 36 months, for spouses, managing a resume can be a difficult proposition. Military spouses bring a lot to the table, but how do we communicate that to potential employers or admissions committees?

1.  Make a master resume.

A master resume is a single document and organizational tool that serves as a source for the resume you will send to potential employers or schools. The trick to master resumes is to keep them up to date and to update information while your responsibilities and your organization’s contact information is still fresh in your mind. Making a note of each potential future recommender on your master resume and keeping in contact with them is also a good idea. A master resume makes constructing a tailor-made resume with relevant experience for each later submission much easier.

2.  Fill in employment gaps with volunteer work.

Be a joiner—admissions committees and employers want to see what you did with your time. Volunteer work is a great way to show your commitment to your community, your willingness to take initiative, and it can be extremely rewarding. Even better, if you have a passion but are not in a position to work in that field yet, volunteer work is way to show continuity of interest, gain relevance, and stay involved. Additionally, volunteering is a great way to network, which is a much more streamlined path to employment. Those with minimal work experience can emphasize volunteer work as a central part of a resume. If you’re already in a career track, a separate section is appropriate.

3.  Consider using a functional or combined format resume.

If you have gaps in your resume, using a chronological resume format can make those gaps stand out. Functional resumes allow you to highlight transferrable skills while deemphasizing gaps. Make sure that you include dates—you do not want to leave the impression that you have something to hide. Regardless of the format you choose, always submit it in PDF form to minimize formatting errors and, when you have the choice to upload a resume or fill in an online form, always fill in the form. The formatting of online forms is easier for potential employers to search and process, which increases your chances of having your resume read.

4.  Know your audience and don’t get stuck on rules.

Every resume you submit should be tailored to the recipient with only relevant experience or transferrable skills included. The resume you give to veterinary school admissions, for example, should highlight volunteer work at the local shelter as well as your great undergrad GPA and the office you held as president of the campus animal welfare league. This is obviously different than a resume you would submit to a potential employer at a PR firm. That employer will not be as impressed by your GPA as they are by the successful media campaign you spearheaded to raise funds for your local shelter. The general rule is stick to a one page resume unless you have a master’s level education or equivalent work experience, but getting stuck on rules can limit your ability to effectively tell your story. Make every entry thoughtful, purposeful, and true to the bigger theme you want to present and breaking those rules can be a calculated risk that pays off. Your resume is your story. How do you want to be read?

5.  Seek help.

It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a cadre of friends and relatives to craft a good resume. This is true for admissions essays as well. Edit, edit, edit and then ask trusted people to do the same. Seek those successful, smart people in your life and ask for help. Most successful people know that success isn’t a zero sum game and they want to you to do well. If this isn’t an option for you, use your available resources. Military OneSource, base transition assistance office (many offer resume writing classes!), or a hired resume expert are all options you should consider. You only get one shot to impress people so think of it as an investment in your future.

Lisa Rich, an S2S ambassador, is pursuing her master’s in Nurse Midwifery and Women’s Health at Yale School of Nursing. She is a mother of four and wife to a recently retired enlisted Marine. Lisa is a proud Tillman Military Scholar and she believes veterans and military families are uniquely poised to make a difference in the world. Following graduation she hopes to open a freestanding birth center serving at-risk populations and participate in international birth work.

New York Times Selects S2S Applicant’s Essay

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 11.20.53 AMWe are very excited to see that the New York Times has published the college application essay of one of our Service to School applicants, Robert Henderson, who is also an alum of our wonderful partner Warrior-Scholar Project. Rob worked with S2S ambassador Mike Anderson. Just crushing it.

You can read Rob’s essay here.

AAR: From the Marines to an MBA/MPP at Stanford and Harvard

david leeAfter coming to the conclusion that I wanted to transition off of active duty and go to graduate school, I did some preliminary research on resources for veterans’ transition and stumbled onto Service to School’s page. I filled out the contact form and was put in touch with an ambassador who helped me tweak my resume and essays for my target schools over the course of the application season.

S2S was especially helpful when it came time to gather information on the culture and fit of different schools. S2S served as a one-stop shop not just for admissions advice and mentorship, but also for leveraging the veteran network and reaching out to veterans at various programs throughout the country. While many MBA applicants from traditional business backgrounds have the benefit of mentorship from their supervisors who have their own MBAs and have been through the application process, most service members lack that benefit and have to typically navigate their own way—figuring out on their own how to properly coach recommenders, tweaking essays, and learning to translate resumes into something that admissions officers can appreciate. S2S provided these tools that were necessary to successfully navigate the transition back into the classroom.

Equally importantly, S2S also provided a community of driven veterans who are eager to give back and make an impact on the veteran community and society at large through lives of continued service in various sectors of society. For today’s generation of veterans who typically quietly and individually dissipate back into the general population, it was encouraging to know that a welcoming veteran community existed on “the outside.”

After a long application season, I was admitted to my target schools and will be pursuing an MBA/MPP at Stanford and Harvard, respectively. My many thanks to S2S for bridging the gap and providing an avenue for veterans to successfully make the jump and enabling today’s generation of veterans to live lives of further impact and service.

David Lee commissioned through the NROTC program at the University of Michigan and graduated with degrees in Political Science and History. As a second lieutenant, 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 controller and will be pursuing his MBA at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and his MPP at Harvard Kennedy School.

My Test Prep Journey to a 710 on the GMAT

The Veritas Prep program allowed me to reach my GMAT goals and re-learn all of the quantitative skills that I had forgotten over the past several years. I am an Army veteran, six years out of college, and Veritas Prep was the perfect program to teach me the skills I needed to succeed on the GMAT. I am thankful for the quality of the curriculum, and also very appreciative of the generous scholarship from Veritas Prep through the Service to School organization. Throughout the self-study lessons, I could always count on the on-demand videos to deliver engaging, thoughtful content and guide me through the lesson of the day. I particularly enjoyed Brian’s humorous references (the “alge, brah” joke stands out): The human element to the videos definitely helped me to remember many topics and leverage them on test day.

My goal was a score over 700, and I knew that I needed a structured, high-quality program to help me to get a top 10% score. After looking at several programs, Veritas Prep stood out as the one that would work for me. On day one of the program, I was contacted by Colleen Hill, who told me how to get started and offered her time for any questions I had throughout the course. I have to admit, I did not expect an actual person to contact me; it was a pleasant surprise! Upon receiving my materials in the mail and logging on to check out the online resources, I was again impressed by the quality of the materials. I found that I was more and more excited to begin the course. With everything organized and a thirty-day plan ahead of me, I began the course.

The curriculum was demanding, as I worked through it over a thirty-day period, and well-balanced to where I didn’t feel that I was ever losing ground in either quant or verbal. While working through the lessons, I could also always take comfort in the fact that if I didn’t understand a specific question, I could use the online homework help as a resource. Homework was challenging, which was great, and I found the explanations covered anything that I had missed when it came to why the correct answer was right, and why the wrong answers looked tempting.

When my test day finally came, I felt confident. I felt that the Veritas Prep practice tests had provided a very accurate measure of the difficulty of questions that I faced. Throughout the test, I remembered the lessons, always looking for logical ways to answer the question and leveraging a mastery of the content. I felt calm and confident throughout the test, and when I finished I had a 710. I am ecstatic at that score, especially as it is my first attempt, and I can attribute it to nothing but the exceptional quality of the Veritas Prep curriculum.

For someone who is looking for high-quality, comprehensive preparation for the GMAT, Veritas Prep should definitely be their first choice. I want to give a sincere “thank you” to Colleen and the rest of the Veritas Prep organization; you have helped me get a head start on my journey towards an MBA.

Veritas Prep is a proud sponsor of Service to School.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? Check out Veritas Prep’s GMAT prep courses starting all the time. And be sure to find them on Facebook and Google+, and follow them on Twitter!

By US Army Captain Chuck Wood

AAR: From Army Infantry NCO to Wesleyan

Dennis White is a recently-transitioned Army Infantry NCO with three tours downrange under his well-worn reflective belt. Dennis is currently an ambassador with Service to School and a Posse Wesleyan Scholar.

I sat in the back of a HMMWV, shuttling troops back from a Fort Hood range with the commander and XO of what would be my last active duty unit. I was attempting to be quiet, sitting behind the driver, when the commander realized he had never spoken to me since I joined his troop. Not once. He turned around in his seat and gave me the routine he probably saw in a briefing somewhere: “Sergeant White, are you getting out? What are you plans? Are you a good student?” All in an overly patronizing tone. The final question seemed innocuous enough on the surface, but made my blood boil: “What school do you want to attend?”

I replied, “UT, sir.” The CO and XO looked at each other with sarcastic smirks. Both scoffed and looked back at me with a half-smiles, as if I were a child that said, “Gee golly, guys, I wanna be an astronaut!” Their expressions and attitudes infuriated me and, for a moment, made me question myself. However, I made a decision to dig deeper and redouble my efforts, perhaps even set my sights a little higher.

Earlier that year, I had made the decision to end my service and put together a hasty plan to pursue my dreams of higher education. More than anything, I wanted to attend the University of Texas at Austin. When I spoke to the admissions office, they promptly told me the quickest way to gain entry was to attend a local community college and transfer after accumulating enough credit hours. Sounds easy enough, right?

The answer is yes, but if you want to be competitive for more prestigious universities you have to get involved in the community in a meaningful way while maintaining respectable grades. Good places to start for me included volunteering for a political campaign, helping register people to vote, and tutoring other veterans. The other side of the equation was simple — work hard. I worked harder than I did in the military, this time without needing the First Sergeant driving me to get results. This was my choice, my decision.

Before I separated from the Army, I enrolled at Austin Community College and started the long process of working my ass off to get into UT. Along the way, some of my professors advised me to think bigger, to set my sights higher. So I started looking into Harvard, Yale, Amherst and other elite New England colleges. There’s no use in having goals if you don’t set them high enough, right?

Fortunately, I discovered two organizations that helped me chart my path and changed my life: Service to School and The Posse Foundation. Service to School is an incredible organization founded by absurdly ambitious and generous veteran alumni, aimed at helping our nation’s veterans navigate the complicated song and dance routine most of us come to know as the college application process. The Posse Foundation identifies high-performing public high school students who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes and forms them into groups — or posses— for accelerated leader development and education at premiere educational institutions.

My Service to School ambassador quickly assessed my strengths and weaknesses, and calmed my nerves with a frank discussion on the challenges of the application process at an extremely selective school. My grades were good, my test scores high, and my service record impeccable. But I still needed help — I reached out to an old Army buddy and a high school friend to help edit my application essays. The Posse Foundation channeled me through a rigorous application process that included an intense series of three interviews, concluding in New York City.

The acceptance call caught me on the train to the airport. It was a validation of the promise of my abilities and proof that my dreams were mine to achieve. I could not have accomplished what I did without help, a reminder that we are stronger together than we are alone. One phone call represented a long, rewarding journey from the backseat of a HMMWV on Fort Hood.

Today, our veterans have access to an unprecedented amount of help to fulfill their educational ambitions. The government provides educational benefits to an entirely new generation of veteran students. Top tier universities — including Yale, Amherst, Tulane, Georgetown and many more — are actively recruiting veterans to join their campuses. And organizations such as Service to School, the Posse Foundation, and the Warrior-Scholar Project provide assistance to veterans seeking admission to the nation’s elite educational institutions.

For many transitioning enlisted troops, the advice received is often negative or very limited in scope: Focus on community college, Think about a trade school, or Are you sure college is for you? Why should we allow anyone to tell us what we cannot do, rather than what we can do? Instead, I ignored those who scoffed or rolled their eyes. I leveraged a network of friends, peers, and veteran support organizations to gain admission to Wesleyan University, a far more selective school than anything I ever hoped to achieve.

I dared to dream.

Are “Military-Friendly” College Lists Really That Military-Friendly?

We just took a look at the 2015 Military Times “Best for Vets” college rankings, and we can’t help noticing that the top three colleges on their list have graduation rates of 42%, 39%, and 34% respectively — and that’s for the traditional, full-time student population! And those rates reflect graduation within a generous 6 years after starting at a 4-year program. Dismal.

That’s just one example of why we are skeptical of “veteran-friendly” or “military-friendly” college rankings.

You can do better. We are here to help.

Why You Should Apply to Become a Tillman Scholar

The Tillman Scholars program is an unparalleled opportunity for student veterans and spouses who care about continued service to use higher education as a launch pad for their career goals and to make positive change.

Every U.S. military veteran and spouse pursuing higher education should submit an application to become a Tillman Scholar. The application is currently open and will close at 11:59pm PT on March 3rd, 2015. If you’re a military veteran or spouse pursuing a bachelor’s or graduate degree next year and haven’t applied, please read on. Based on our first-hand experience, there are three important reasons why you should consider applying ASAP. We are fortunate, honored, and humbled to be part of the Tillman Scholars community.

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Here is why being a Tillman Scholar means so much to us:

1. Be a part of an enduring legacy

Pat Tillman was the quintessential Post-9/11 US military veteran. A deep thinker and leader on and off the football field, Pat sacrificed a lucrative NFL career and volunteered to join the military at a time of war. Pat was truly a selfless individual. Marie Tillman and the Tillman family have transformed their personal tragedy into something beautiful: an investment that will return dividends to come for generations of veterans and civilians. We are—and will forever remain—grateful for the support of the Pat Tillman Foundation.

2. Fellowship with an inspiring community

Once selected, Tillman Scholars participate in the annual Pat Tillman Leadership Summit. This intensive experience provides a space for veterans to share their perspective with, and learn from, the experiences of fellow Tillman Scholars as well as thought-provoking speakers. The Summit is humbling if not outright intimidating given how many remarkably accomplished veterans you will meet.

Worry not. If you’re at the Summit, you deserve your seat at the table. Your Tillman Scholar peers will be an essential resource as you work to continue your service during and after your degree. Case in point: Tim’s roommate at the 2012 Summit was Adrian Kinsella:

Adrian is a Marine Corps officer completing his studies at Berkeley’s Boalt Law School. This spring, Adrian will graduate and return to service as a uniformed lawyer in the Marine Corps. Importantly, Adrian’s service never stopped during his time at law school, and the Tillman community played a vital role in Adrian’s groundbreaking actions. In the past two years Adrian has led the charge to ensure that the United States does not forget Afghan interpreters who served valiantly and selflessly with U.S. Service Members. Understanding that our mission in Afghanistan went beyond drawn-up battle plans and bilateral Status of Forces Agreements, Adrian worked tirelessly to ensure that America did not betray the safety of his interpreter, Mohammad. But Adrian didn’t stop there. He made it a personal mission to ensure the safety for Mohammad’s entire family by advocating for their relocation from hiding in Afghanistan, to safe passage in the United States through a notoriously difficult and complicated Humanitarian Parole application. The mission is not over for Adrian. To this day, he continues to help Mohammad and his family transition to the United States. The Tillman community is behind him every step of the way.

You can learn more about Adrian here and here.

3. Enabling Continued Service

Servant Leadership is the ethos that animates Marie Tillman and the entire Pat Tillman Foundation. This leadership philosophy is the bedrock of the Leadership Summit and defines the Tillman community at large.

Case in point: At the same Leadership Summit where Tim met Adrian, he also met Jake Wood, the co-founder and CEO of Team Rubicon. At the Summit, Jake shared Team Rubicon’s important mission: to provide much needed disaster relief while giving veterans an opportunity to continue their service.

An underlying conversation about service is at the heart of every Leadership Summit, and Tillman Scholars continue the conversation well after their time in school. Query the leadership pages of the most effective organizations serving veterans’ interests, and you will undoubtedly find Tillman Scholars serving in key leadership roles.

We are co-founders of Service to School, an organization that provides free application assistance to veterans applying to undergraduate and graduate school programs. The Pat Tillman Foundation has been integral to the success of Service to School. Countless Tillman Scholars have selflessly volunteered and mentored veterans in need of application assistance. The PTF leadership has also helped to cultivate and expand S2S’s offerings, and this year we are proud to announce an official partnership between our organizations. Service to School would not be where it is today without the support of the greater Tillman community, and our leaders constantly seek to emulate PTF’s servant leadership mantra.

We’ve listed just three reasons why every veteran pursuing higher education should apply to become a Tillman Scholar. But we could write a novel about the incredibly impressive change agents we have met through the PTF community. We hope that you will seek out the same opportunities. Student veterans, position yourself for future success—please apply to become a Tillman Scholar.

Lastly, if you are a veteran and are looking to maximize your education benefits with free application assistance, then please sign up here.

Additionally, please read and share our free guidebooks detailing how to successfully apply to top undergraduate and MBA programs, and stay tuned for a S2S Veteran Law School Application Guide which we will be releasing shortly.

Tim Hsia (Tillman Scholar ’12) and Khalil Tawil (Tillman Scholar ’13) are former Army officers, and among the founders of Service to School, a nonprofit organization that helps veterans applying to college and graduate school. Service to School has recently partnered with the Tillman Foundation.

Atlantic Council Trains Veterans in Non-Profit Leadership

                                                       15831603193_49d67bca56_o (1)                               

A nation that draws too broad a difference between its scholars and its warriors will have it’s thinking done by cowards, and it’s fighting done by fools.—Thucydides 

Soldiers love to bitch and moan, from the ever-present complaints about small inconveniences to how a major military or foreign policy decision is flat out stupid. Usually, though, this amounts to little more than an airing of grievances (in keeping with the finest tradition of Festivus) to contemporaries who have no more ability to change things than whoever is doing the whining at the moment.

As an infantryman on the line I was no different.  But I’m no longer there and, like the rest of us at Service to School, have realized that we are now able to begin having a say in things. Increasingly, other parts of our society are recognizing the growing role of GWOT veterans in our nation’s domestic and international political discourse. In light of this, the Atlantic Council recently welcomed its inaugural cohort of veteran fellows to their headquarters in Washington, DC for the Veterans Take Point Initiative, providing them with expert training and mentorship on how to become effective leaders in the foreign affairs and national security realms.  Fellows were also able to participate in discussion seminars with prominent foreign affairs leaders, meeting with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Cartwright, and Ambassador Jon Huntsman, who can be seen addressing fellows in the photo above.  The week concluded with fellows pitching their nonprofit before a panel of judges, with the winner receiving 25,000 in seed funding.  Three finalists were selected, including Service to School, Team Rubicon, and the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF), led by Ben Kohlmann, with DEF taking the money.  All of us at Service to School would like to extend our congratulations to Ben as well as our admiration for the work DEF is doing, and are honored to have been named as finalists alongside the very impressive DEF and Team Rubicon.

The Atlantic Council also recognizes the entrepreneurial bent of our generation of veterans, and the Take Point Initiative’s mission was to educate the veteran fellows not only on direct government service, with which we already have some experience, but also on how to effectively advance American interests through non-profit enterprises.

As a fellow representing Service to School, I can say that it was a truly incredible experience, from the invaluable information received on running a non-profit enterprise, to intimate meetings with foreign policy leaders, to hanging out with other young veterans doing incredible things, such as Team Rubicon’s Amanda Burke, The week concluded with fellows pitching their nonprofit to a panel of judges, with the winner receiving 25,000 in seed funding.  Three finalists were selected, including Service to School, Team Rubicon, and the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF), led by Ben Kohlmann, with DEF taking the money.  All of us at Service to School would like to extend our congratulations to Ben as well as our admiration for the work DEF is doing, and are honored to have been named as finalists alongside the very impressive DEF and Team Rubicon.

Perhaps most of all, the fellowship highlighted the fact that GWOT era veterans stand poised as a vanguard of leaders not in the distant, but the very near future.  The opportunities are there, and it is up to us to seize them. It’s been a rough decade for this country; few know this better than we do. Current events involving Daesh (aka ISIS, but they don’t like this name), Russia, and China’s rise, to say nothing of our domestic problems, will not be wished away. However, we must still obtain educations commensurate with such responsibilities, and this is where S2S comes in—facilitating the entry of veteran leaders into prestigious university programs.

If anyone can work to take our nation in a better direction tomorrow, we can. To paraphrase General Ulysses S. Grant’s comments to General Sherman during the Battle of Shiloh, we’ve had the devil’s own decade, but we can lick ‘em tomorrow.

Zachary McDonald was born in Chicago and left Illinois immediately after high school, having enlisted in the Army as an infantryman during his senior year. A recipient of the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Purple Heart, Zach served in the Al Anbar province of Iraq and Khost province of Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division, and subsequently worked on the Army staff. Currently, he is a senior majoring in political science at Yale University and Service to School’s Executive Director of Undergraduate Admissions.

AAR: From Naval Destroyers to Harvard Business School

Charlie Hymen photo (1)Congratulations! The fact that you’ve found this post indicates that you are on the right path towards gaining admission to the MBA program of your choice. In fact, I was navigating MBA blogs, websites, and consulting services just under a year ago myself when I learned about Service to School (S2S).

The good news for you is that you’ve stumbled upon a program that works. Period. In the fall of 2015, I will be attending Harvard Business School, and had it not been for S2S and the incredible service it provides transitioning veterans, I’m not sure I would be able to say that.

Each of us has unique goals and aspirations and is at varying degrees of readiness to start the MBA application process. The beauty of S2S is that your ambassador will help you navigate each and every step. Aside from reviewing my resume, suggesting different directions to take my essays, and helping me articulate my reason for pursuing an MBA – however nebulous that reason may have been in the first place – the most helpful thing my ambassador did for me was to connect me with a network of current veteran MBA students at the schools to which I planned to apply. I talked to at least three current students from each of these schools, and each told me all about their experiences with the application process, the culture at their schools, and what they wish they had known earlier in the game. Each email introduction that my ambassador made on my behalf was met with an almost instantaneous reply email from that particular veteran MBA student. The hardest part for me was keeping up with all of this correspondence, as I was shocked by how eager people were to talk and how selfless they were with their time. None of these phone calls would have happened without S2S.

One of my original concerns with using S2S was that each veteran would be trying to “sell” me on attending their particular MBA program. Looking back, nothing could have been further from reality. Each veteran wanted to help me achieve my personal goals and find the program that would be most compatible with my personal ambitions. The most important outcome – and S2S made this resoundingly clear – is that veterans find the path that is best for them. Not once did I ever feel as if I owed any allegiance to ambassadors at any particular school or to anyone who had served in a particular branch of the military. We are all truly one team, and I have never seen this ideal embraced to the degree that it is embraced across the board at S2S.

There is no doubt that the onus of MBA applications is on the applicant, and each veteran needs to do as much individual work and research as possible about MBA programs, GMAT study strategies, interview preparation, etc. However, S2S provides a rolodex of veteran MBA students who have successfully navigated the process themselves and have incredible insights and lessons to pass on. The ambassadors’ guidance and reassurance not only gave me invaluable knowledge but also provided me with the confidence to tackle the long and arduous journey of MBA applications from beginning to end. Whatever your misunderstandings, insecurities, or hesitations are, I can guarantee that someone (if not most) at S2S has felt the same thing and can ease your fears.

If I were to apply to MBA programs all over again, I wouldn’t waste any time before contacting S2S.

Charlie Hymen graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2009 with a B.S. in Economics. After earning his commission, he served on two destroyers and deployed to Southeast Asia and the Middle East before working at the Pentagon as a White House / Congressional Liaison Officer for the Secretary of the Navy. Charlie will pursue his MBA at Harvard Business School in the fall of 2015.

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