Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Veteran enrollment in top MBA programs

I've recently connected the veteran club leadership of many of the top MBA programs in the country in an effort to open up communications and aid the veterans in our respective schools and beyond. One of the first topics we discussed was simply how many of us there are, so we compiled the following unofficial data:

This shows that US veterans represent around 2-4% of the top MBA schools, with an average of about 3%. There is also some variation from across the schools, but I would caution against extrapolating long term school trends from this data, as schools with smaller classes can easily have significant fluctuations in the number of veteran admits. Rather, we can look at this information as a single data point and compare it to future class years. This data also provides no insight into the acceptance rate at each school for military veterans, since applicant demographics are usually held strictly confidential.

On a positive note, there is no reason why these numbers can't go up. The HBS dean of admissions, Deirdre Leopold, is quoted in Fortune magazine talking about the number of military vets at HBS by saying "I would be happy to have that number go up."

Hopefully with the humble help of this blog, and all the resources available, those numbers will indeed go up.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Best of Blogging nomination

Military To Business has been nominated by Clear Admit for its Best of Blogging 2009-2010. Results will be announced May 4th. I've received thanks from many MBA bound students that I've helped get admitted, but I never expected something like this, so it was a definitely pleasant surprise. I'm really glad this blog has been helpful for so many people.

Update: The blog came in 6th overall for student bloggers. Thank you to Clear Admit and for everyone's great feedback!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fundamental beliefs

History has shown that leaders with clearly defined core principles and morals will perform better during time of adversity, will stand up better to undue pressure, and will be more at peace with themselves and their role in this world. Acquiring those core principles is not something that necessarily happens by itself; it’s something we have to work on for many years, and perhaps some would say the process continues our whole life.

About a third of first year HBS classes are about leadership, ethics, and the role of government and business in society. The classes purposefully bring to surface fundamental questions about people, culture, and society, and directly challenge some of our most basic and core beliefs. Former military people tend to be more comfortable in these cases because military personnel have had more time in their life to develop their own core values, and have also had more opportunity to exercise and refine those beliefs in real world settings.

I find that many of my classmates seek me out to inquire what some of my core beliefs are and why I believe them. This is not so much because I necessarily have any “right” answers, but simply because I have an answer, and I can articulate my rationale in a coherent and thoughtful manner. HBS students are often hungry for people who have clear ideals and values because many are still seeking to understand what they themselves believe.

What makes things difficult for some students is that they are trying to answer most of these classroom questions without first asking the most fundamental of questions. They are trying to pick out the material for the new roof without first deciding on the foundation of the house. To first build a strong foundation, you will need to establish the cornerstones. Once those cornerstones are in place, the rest of the foundation can be filled in. Look over the following four questions and see if you have an immediate or clear answer:

  1. What are inalienable human rights, and where do they come from?
  2. What should be the role of government?
  3. What and when is something worth fighting for?
  4. What does it mean to be fair?

If you had an immediate answer to one of these questions, you have either studied the subject to great deal in the past, or you have not looked deeply enough into the question. These are some of the most fundamental questions societies are faced with, yet few can clearly articulate their own core beliefs to others. My advice is to consider these questions so that people can ask you “why” ten times over to each answer until you finally get your fundamental beliefs. If you are getting frustrated with the “why” question, it may be a sign you don’t know the answer yourself.

Most of us simply do not have this foundation built. Some may argue that not all people even need such a foundation to be successful. However, I do believe these are questions that people who wish to be the future leaders of world should eventually be able to answer.

One of the things I’ve learned at HBS is that people’s core beliefs are as varied and diverse as the cultures they represent. We may not agree with each other on some issues, but by at least understanding the fundamentals of why other people feel the way they do, reasonable people from opposite parts of the spectrum can at least agree on reasonable terms; an outcome rarely seen in many modern governments.

I therefore encourage you to post your own answers through comments below. I would be interested in reading them, and you might be surprised how differently everyone thinks about such fundamental questions.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

HBS Talent

When recently asked what has been the most surprising upside of coming to HBS, I answered the following without hesitation: the unbelievable skills, talents, and personalities of my classmates. Coming here I expected to be surrounded by highly intelligent and business savvy people, but what I didn't expect was how talented and multi-dimensional everyone would be. This was again demonstrated this past weekend when I led some of my sectionmates and partners on an overnight backpacking trip through the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

The hike was meant to be of moderate difficulty, but turned out to be quite challenging; it would have been tough even for a decent infantry squad. Knee deep snow at places, ice cold river crossings (boots come off!), climbing of nearly vertical rock faces, a very poorly marked trail that required plenty of cross-country movement, and even night hiking (including down rock faces), all while carrying a good sized overnight pack made this a 21 mile hike covering over 5200 feet of elevation change a weekend to remember!

But did people ever complain? Or try to free load at any point? Never... it was amazing. Instead, people were volunteering to spread load equipment, encouraging each other, and smiles and laughter accompanied us every step of the way. When we finally set up camp around 10pm we each had a MRE (Military Meal-Ready-To-Eat), and exchanged stories and jokes. We even had a student who had never been in the woods and this was his first experience. I was truly amazed by my classmates' determination and good spirits. The point of the trip was not to be a physical challenge, but when adverse conditions came our way, they were easily handled (physically and more importantly, mentally).

It's not that I'm impressed that my classmates are in good shape or know how to hike in the woods. It's that people in this group could probably also play musical instruments professionally if they chose to, that they are involved in non-profits, launching businesses, and can speak intelligently about anything from the US current account deficit to financial put options, all while carrying a heavy backpack and climbing up snow covered mountains. So kudos to all my classmates. You guys inspire me to better myself everyday!