Free GMAT/GRE!

Even though I didn’t end up going to grad school right after the Army, I did take the GMAT… and it was FREE.

I highly encourage you to take the GRE/GMAT while you are still in the military, because DANTES (Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support) will reimburse the cost of that exam.  For me, that was $250 back in my pocket for the GMAT.  Your scores are good for five years, so even if you go to work after you transition, you’ll be able to get into grad school with that exam score for a while.  If you don’t want to go to grad school within five years, it’s at least a free practice test so you know what to expect.

To qualify for a GRE/GMAT fee reimbursement through DANTES, you need:

  • a valid, current “Armed Forces of the United States” identification card at testing
  • have never taken a DANTES funded GRE/GMAT exam
  • apply for reimbursement within 90 days of the scheduled test date

You have to register, schedule, and pay for the exam yourself.  Once you finish the test, hang on to your paperwork!  You will need it to fill out the form you receive from a Test Control Officer, typically found at your base’s Education Center.

I also highly recommend studying for the test and investing in study materials!  (I loved the Manhattan GMAT books and practice tests!)  I was seriously considering business school, so I ended up taking the exam twice since I was unhappy with my first score.  Since the first round was free, it didn’t feel so terrible paying for a second attempt.  I improved my score by 90 points, so I consider it a success!

If you’re considering grad school, take advantage of this benefit for servicemembers!

Grad School… is it right for you?

The Master’s is the new Bachelor’s… or so they are saying these days.  Many officers transitioning from the Army, especially those questioning their relevance in the civilian world, head straight to graduate school to earn degrees before pursuing civilian careers.  But is it the right call?

In an uncertain economy, graduate school is known as a hideout for post-undergrads who worry they won’t be able to find jobs after graduation.  There’s an increase in applicants to graduate schools during times of economic decline.  People see Master’s degrees as a surefire ticket to better-paying jobs later on, something to set them apart from their peers.  But I have friends who have racked up six-figure debt from nearly a decade of higher education, because they have never actually joined the workforce to start paying it off.

For us military folks, who either have earned a degree and/or have GI Bill benefits to help us pay, the story may be a little different.  We have valuable work experience already.  Some of us will get the military to pay for that graduate degree (or at least part of it).  Some of us are financially stable enough to undertake student loans and forgo ‘lost wages’ for a couple of years, because we feel a degree will help us transition to the job we want.  It’s all about the individual situation.

That said, a military officer transitioning does not need to rush into grad school to be relevant.  You already have plenty of qualities that would make you an excellent hire in Corporate America.  So don’t assume you need the degree to get the job you want; it’s not the only way to differentiate yourself.  Many jobs will give you tuitiion reimbursement if you take on your degree while gaining valuable job experience working for them.  I’ve met several former military officers who were hired for the same jobs right out of the military that others got right after their MBA.  They gained valuable work experience in the civilian world first, then pursued a degree that allowed them to apply theories to the knowledge they acquired on the job.  I also have friends who went straight to the Ivy League, and I know they will be just as successful… but they made the choice based on their individual situations, and it was a fully educated (no pun intended!) decision.

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My Story

I feel I owe my story, because I’m asking some of my friends and peers to share theirs.  I’ve chosen to remain anonymous, and I’ll be doing the same for the people and companies I blog about here.  I think that the information is still important, but it’s better to give everyone some privacy.

I was an Army brat, growing up in some amazing places like Europe and South Korea.  My Dad was a military officer, who later transitioned to a career in finance.  I attended the same college he did, choosing a military service academy.  I was attracted to the combination of prestige, education, and military service.  I loved the challenge.  I would then spend the next five years after graduation serving as an officer in the United States Army, including two deployments overseas to Iraq.  I was fortunate to work with great units, leaders, and mentors.

The decision to leave the military was a tough one.  (And I believe it is for most people!)  I didn’t enter my service believing I would leave; instead, I left myself open to either possibility.  In the end, I knew I’d accomplished my goals in the military.  I had an interest in business; I even took the GMAT twice to prepare myself for business school!  As I researched different opportunities, established myself on LinkedIn, and talked to my peers going through similar transitions, I decided to work with a professional recruiter.  I chose a well-recommended recruiter that specialized in military officers transitioning to Corporate America, had a rigorous professional development program, and was a good match for my career goals.   I’m excited about my career conference with them in just a couple of months, and I plan to keep you posted throughout the process!

My ultimate goal is to find a good job in business, working for a company I like and believe in. I want to enjoy my work, which I believe is a goal/dream that everyone has!  Completing my MBA is still a top goal and priority of mine, but I haven’t decided yet how I want to do it.  I’m a work in progress.

What’s your story?