Frequently Asked Questions
What GMAT score should you shoot for?
Shoot for the best score you can get! The GMAT/GRE is an important part of your application. It a test of persistence, and it is a way to standardize and equalize a measure of evaluation across the applicant pool. It is also gauges an applicant’s ability to handle the academic rigor of business school. As a ballpark, you’ll want to achieve a 700+ with relatively balanced quant and verbal percentiles prior to starting your application. Exceptions always apply but this will significantly help your application’s competitiveness. While there are some applicants that are admitted with a GMAT score in the lower range (<700), these cases are exceptions. In short, military applicants compete with each other within the applicant pool, and it would be a mistake to believe that an applicant’s military background will make up for a low test score. There are some aspects of your application that you can no longer influence (undergrad track record), but the GMAT/GRE is an aspect that you presently have total control over. Make it count! Of note, you can get one standardized test paid for by your duty station’s education center (or via DANTES, a DoD nontraditional education agency)
How should I answer the essay questions?
“What matters most to you, and why?”
Another way to think about this question is, “what motivates you and how have you become the person you are today?” Then, answer this question by telling a personal story only you can tell. Next, show how that affected you, and how that's shaped your outlook, your perspective, and your choices. The story you use can occur within a professional context, but the idea is to show, not tell the reader how you came to answer the question the way you’ve chosen to answer it. Talking up your big accomplishments/wins is not what’s being sought, unless that accomplishment somehow helped you understand what matters most to you. You want it to be easy & entertaining to read, but also unique and authentic. Remember that you are going to be looked at next to other veteran applicants. Therefore, try and share stories or anecdotes that are unique to YOU and not just to any veteran. Doing that will help you stand out from the pack.
You don’t have to know what you want to do for the rest of your life to write a good essay, but having a goal in mind (even if it’s just something you would consider) is helpful in focusing the essays, particularly this one. This essay is a chance to show that you’ve done your research on Stanford and why you’ll be a good fit. Avoid platitudes ( “world class education”, “the network”, “SV location”), and don’t regurgitate the website content on programs, classes, and other Stanford features – personalize them and show how they’ll specifically help you get what you want out of business school. Also explore ways you’ll add to the community. Best answers to this question demonstrate deep understanding of Stanford’s offerings and why the GSB is a good fit for you. This isn’t strictly a career goals essay, but it can demonstrate fit with well-reasoned ties to short-term goals and it serves as a chance to show that you have put thought into your candidacy.
Give yourself plenty of time. This is probably the most important part of the application. Treat it as such. Have multiple people proofread it and give you feedback. Don’t turn in your first draft and expect to succeed. Ballpark 3 months to turn out a quality set of essays for a typical number of school applications (3-4 per round).
Who did you use as your LORs?
Pick LORs who can give specific anecdotes of how you impacted the unit and demonstrated a leadership quality that is well-beyond those of your peers. A personalized LOR will trump rank any day. To go one step further, pick LORs who can help highlight multiple sides of your leadership and ability to affect change. For instance, if you have someone who observed you in a staff role, pick another person who knows you from more of a management perspective. Best practice for military folks would typically be one LOR from a current commanding officer, and another who can show you in another dimension whether that’s within the military or outside of the military. What’s most important is to secure recommenders who can comment from close personal experience and with specific details about your performance. Similar to the admissions essay, you want your recommender to be able to highlight specific stories and anecdotes that shine light on your character and competence.
Coaching your recommenders is absolutely crucial. Remind them about things they might consider discussing in your LOR. Unlike the military, it is not acceptable to write your own recommendations and have the recommender sign them. Start early with recruiting recommenders. It’s not just professional courtesy, it affords you a buffer to ensure timely submission.
What materials should you be well-read on before school starts?
Truly, there’s nothing you need to read up on prior to starting school. If you’re going crazy and need something to do, consider a low-threat online pre-MBA prep course - MBA Math is a popular option. These typically cover basic accounting, finance, and statistics principles. You’ll get exposure to core-class content before tackling it “for real” in your first few quarters. In addition, basic online Excel classes to teach you about keyboard shortcuts, formatting, etc. would be helpful. Again though, you can come into the GSB with zero baseline and quickly get up to speed on what you need.
What do most veterans pursue coming out of the GSB?
Compared with other school, consulting and banking aren’t as popular at GSB but a significant number of veterans will still pursue them. From search fund to startups, VCs to tech, veterans have pursued and been placed in a multitude of different roles.
What does an average day look like?
Every day has its own flavor, but you can expect to have 2-5 total hours of class, a Brown Bag Lunch event sponsored by a company or a club and a couple coffee chats/networking meetings (if wanted). There are ample opportunities for eating dinner with a group and there are 2+ nights a week with well organized social events (BPL, FOAM, etc.)
How much will the MBA cost me (GI Bill, Yellow Ribbon, etc.)?
If you qualify for the Yellow Ribbon program, then that and the GI Bill will cover the majority of the expenses for full-time MBA students. If not, then expenses will vary based on percentage of GI Bill Entitlement available. For example, ROTC/Academy grads who leave the service the day their obligated service ends receive no GI Bill funding; those who remain in service for 90 days post-obligated service receive 40% GI Bill funding; etc. Broadly speaking, the GSB financial aid office is generous in its financial aid to veterans. Additionally, it is consensus opinion among GSB veteran alums that student loans are, in hindsight, generally a non-factor and should not be the primary consideration in deciding between which top business school to attend. We know this can be a strange and difficult statement to comprehend, but this insight from alums may shed light on how heavily you should weigh different variables.