Admissions and Financial Aid Tips for Getting an MBA While in the Military

4We value the richness and experience that our military students bring to the EMBA program. Two of our current students recently shared some tips for navigating the admissions and financial aid process as a military applicant. They talked about topics ranging from transitioning to the private sector to financial aid to the application process.
East Coast first-year student Colin Ferguson is a former Air Force pilot and member of the Air National Guard who now works at Corning. Wharton San Francisco first-year student Allen McClinton served in the Marine Corps before joining Tyco Electronics.
Check out the short video clips below or keep reading for highlights from the transcript.

A Foundation in the Military

Colin: I went to the U.S. Air Force Academy and majored in biology. From there I went to pilot training and learned to fly a Rescue C-130. I had a 10-year flying career and then joined the Air National Guard while concurrently starting a career with Corning selling telecommunications products in the federal government sector.

Allen: I started out at Georgia Tech and got an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering. Then I got a masters in electrical engineering at the University of Texas. Upon graduating, I went directly into the Marine Corps, where I served as an air support officer for about six years. From there, I started with Tyco Electronics as a sales engineer in the Bay Area. I worked at Tyco for about a year and a half before I applied to Wharton’s EMBA program.

Taking the Next Step

Allen: While in the military, you get to practice strategic levels of leadership so you’re used to managing large-scale operations and thinking very strategically and globally. I transitioned out of the military because I didn’t want to stay in the military forever. I wanted to work in corporate America, leverage my leadership and electrical engineering background, and get into technology.

As I started working with a Fortune 500 company, I saw there were some gaps with my understanding. I had great leadership experience and know how, but to really navigate and understand how to make a Fortune 500 company grow, you need business acumen.

So I wanted a really great business school program with a brand name that was going to be challenging, complex, and difficult so I could [gain that knowledge.] That’s what made me apply to Wharton’s EMBA program. At Wharton, I get to work as well as study and can directly apply what I’m learning in class within Tyco — that’s catalytic.

Colin: I always knew that I had an interest in leadership and business. I felt that my operational and leadership experiences from the military could have a big impact in the business world. When I joined the Air National Guard and then Corning, I started seeing that there were opportunities where I needed to increase my learning. Getting an MBA was a natural next step.

Also, having attended the Air Force Academy, I really saw the value of a high-performing cohort and surrounding yourself with a group of high performers. That really made a big difference to me. I knew I could get the ingredients here that I would need if I ever wanted to lead a company.

How to Navigate the Application Process

Colin: In the military, you get leadership and operational experiences very early on. So you’re out there doing something with high-value tools and personnel from day one.

That’s not something that everybody gets in the world — to be able to do that right off the bat. So you really want to capture that when you present yourself in the application. You want to be able to say that at a young age, you were given a lot of decision-making authority. You may assume that it’s ubiquitous — that everyone’s doing it — but it’s really not. You’ve been given an opportunity to do that so try to show how that can add value in the business world.

Allen: One of the first things you learn as a Marine is this acronym called BAMCIS and it’s basically how you develop orders and how you go about doing something challenging. The M in BAMSIS is for “make reconnaissance”. During this application process, it was very important to really make reconnaissance on what Wharton is all about. And that isn’t just looking at webpages or reading books.

For my application, I really leveraged all the different meetups available throughout the Wharton application process. I went to every event that was in the Bay Area. In that time period, I got to meet the director of admissions and a lot of students. I met former military students and veterans and they tremendously helped me. They gave me details of how they studied for the GMAT and details on how to take my experiences in the military and put them down in a very organized framework. They gave me insight on what it really is like to be a Wharton student and the purpose of coming here. I think it’s very important to understand how powerful the Wharton brand is as well as the educational and networking benefit that it’s going to provide.

Accessing Financial Aid Benefits

Allen: I had a whole support team around me in reference to financial aid. Even before I was accepted to the program Wharton connected me with individuals to talk to and they outlined what benefits you’re offered as a military person as well as the finances. So I had that resource and then the students shared even more resources that were available. I felt like I was supported by a community with this very early on in the application process.

Colin: Leveraging the GI Bill® is something you can definitely do at Wharton. They have a commitment to veterans here – even with simple things like waiving your application fee. If you’re interested in coming to Wharton, you probably already pay pretty close attention to your finances, so when you start to do a cost benefit analysis of here versus other schools and using the GI Bill® versus not, you’ll see that it’s very doable right off the bat. Also, there are additional parts of the GI Bill® such as Yellow Ribbon Program that you could be eligible for. There are people here who will explain that to you so that you can just call up and ask questions.