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Harvard/ Stanford (JD/ MBA)


Joel Melnick Salem, OH

A goal of mine is to attend either Harvard or Stanford J.D./MBA program in 2017.
My question is, what can I do to make my interview and acceptance to either school a reality in the future? My work experience is two intelligence tours in Afghanistan. I wanted to get into finance in wells fargo, JP Morgan Chase etc to gain experience before applying.

Can someone who has attended one of these schools or anyone who has advice for me to strive for this goal please send me information back? Do either of these schools want extensive prior business experience? Thank you.

4 February 2015 6 replies Education & Training



Kristin Garcia Norman, OK

Hi Joel,
These are great suggestions! I also wanted to promote that Stanford has a entrepreneur summer program for Veterans to give a crash course in business development. I encourage you to check it out and let me know if I can help you with your application. The deadline is 3 Mar 2016.


Barry Sosnick Greenlawn, NY

I worked for investment banks before leaving to help my wife buy and manage her practice. A JD is unnecessary for most aspects of finance. Save the year and cost. The cost, by the way, is not only the tuition, but a year of salary. For someone going into finance, you will learn that the value of that fourth year compounded over your career, can create a significant opportunity cost for receiving an JD. Also, spending time with law students will weaken your connection to your B-school classmates.

Harvard is not always the best choice (sorry to the HBS alumnus). Certain other schools have stronger track records on Wall Street (Wharton/Penn, Columbia, Chicago and Stern/NYU graduates do quite well). In certain fields, such as logistics, schools like Michigan State and Georgia Tech are powerhouses. Yale has an excellent program for managing not-for-profits. Kellogg at Northwestern is tops for marketing. Match your school to your career choice. Do not focus on the overall ranking; it is meaningless.

Sadly, the number one predictor of income for graduating MBA students is their salary entering the program. The elite programs rig their job placement and starting salary statistics by exploiting this fact. The top business schools select applicants with excellent jobs and pay, because those students are the most likely to land high paying jobs (I had a full-ride in an honors program because of this).

Fortunately, there is another important variable: career progress. Programs love to see a strong career trajectory. The endpoint is less important than how far you progressed. I would emphasize your progression in rank and responsibility over your military career.

Finally, consider programs that give greater latitude for applicants to convey their value. Stern-NYU, for example, allows applicants to submit anything that will fit in a small box as part of their application (I am not sure if it is in lieu of an essay).

I am not knocking Harvard -- HBS is a great school -- but there are excellent alternatives which may be better for your career goals. I would carefully evaluate how programs match the field you are considering. Furthermore, I would reconsider the costs and benefits of a dual degree.


Keith Van Sickle Menlo Park, CA

I received my MBA from Harvard. In terms of business experience, JD programs generally don't require any - students typically go straight from college to law school. Business schools, and Harvard in particular, want their students to have enough business experience (4-5 years is typical) to have a context for understanding what's being taught. I had a few classmates with military backgrounds, mostly graduates of one of the military academies (so with management experience).
Top business schools are going to look for the usual attributes - academic excellence (grades, degree program, board scores), demonstrated leadership ability, upside potential. Harvard, in particular, teaches all of its courses using the case study method where classroom participation is essential, so they tend not to accept wallflowers.
As Chris Caldwell suggests, you would be well served to review the application process for the programs you are interested in. When you apply, with your background in intelligence, you should emphasize your ability to quickly make sense of things in fluid and stressful situations (very applicable to business). And you should emphasize the leadership roles you've taken on and what you accomplished.
Good luck.


Chris Caldwell Louisville, KY


Forwarding this message from a Harvard Law grad:

The topic you sent, a veteran’s application to Harvard and Stanford business schools, is broad. I recommend that the veteran study the application process information on the HBS website, below. Information specific to veterans can be found by putting the term into the search box at top right. Then, we could look at specific questions. Stanford will be similar.



Chris Caldwell Louisville, KY


I have forwarded your question to a member of our church who went to Harvard Law. I'll send you a message if he has suggestions.



Vladimir Baranov Brooklyn, NY


Few points to help you out

1) Reach out (via LinkedIn) or to through school's Veteran/Military affairs to the military personnel who went through similar experience as yourself.

2) When I went to Columbia EMBA program our class had only 2 persons with military background, both from Air Force in a class of 75, what indicates that few military candidates apply.

3) Schools LOVE diversity of backgrounds in their classes and you will be very likely to be a strong candidate for a position in class, because 99% of those who apply come from Management Consulting or Business background. Make sure to focus on your military experience when filling out your applications and your tour of duty.

4) Despite the excitement of JD/MBA program, make sure to consider the costs post graduation. The debt's level for 4 year program (JD/MBA) is around $320k, even with a $150k job it will take you 20-30 years to pay that all back. Consider doing just MBA.

Let me know if you have any questions and feel free to reach out for clarification.


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