From Military to MBA: A Harvard Business School Graduate's Story

Posted by The MBA Tour on 16 October 2013 / 0 Comments

Tereh-Sayles.gif Tereh Sayles, Havard Business School class of 2009 and an Honors graduate of West Point, spent six years on Active Duty in the U.S. Army before pursuing her MBA at Harvard Business School. During her service in the Army, she specialized in personnel staffing, deployment readiness, and logistics. She has continued working in logistics management since her graduation from Harvard Business School, and has worked in operations at both privately held firms and Fortune 100 companies. She is also the founder of Next Level Admissions Advisors, an MBA admissions consultancy that specializes in helping candidates tell "their story" in their MBA applications.

We asked Tereh how her military experience helped shape her MBA application and admissions process, and how it has influenced her experiences during and post-MBA:

What made you decide to pursue your MBA?

I decided to pursue my MBA because I was always interested in obtaining an advanced degree, and have always been interested in pursuing a career in business. Specifically, I knew that an MBA would help me better understand finance, the language of business, and would ultimately help me successfully transition from soldier to business professional.

What was the transition like from military to MBA?

Honestly, it was rough initially. The first day in finance class the professor brought up a discussion on the U.S. corporate tax rate. I had no idea what a corporate tax was. All I knew about was leading soldiers through difficult times in hostile environments. Every business topic was brand new to me. I ultimately succeeded by attending the teaching assistant’s additional instruction hours, seeking help from my classmates, and initially limiting myself to only a few hours of sleep a night in order to “catch up” to the business knowledge of my classmates.

How should military applicants position their work experience in their MBA applications?

They must hone in on their leadership experiences. The military is the only profession in the world that places a fresh faced twenty-one year old in charge of up to forty subordinates a few months after college graduation. Military applicants need to speak to what made them successful during the many challenges they endured during their military careers, and how those experiences will ensure continued success in business school and beyond.

How should applicants structure their time to complete their B-school applications?

At least 6 – 12 months prior to getting out of the military, applicants should reach out to former military officers who have successfully transitioned to business school or seek out professional advisors like Next Level Admissions Advisors for guidance. Doing so will enable them to get a head start on what it takes to put a successful application together for a top business school application.

What are some common mistakes military applicants make in their applications? How can they be avoided?

One common mistake military applicants make is not translating their military accomplishments and responsibilities into something the average civilian can understand. The military uses a lot of acronyms, and applicants should try to use as many synonyms as possible to make their application understandable and relatable for the reviewer.

How has your MBA benefited you as a former member of the military?

The MBA has benefited my career tremendously. Without it, I would not have been able to achieve the many successes that I have in my operations and logistics career, or grow to the role of Senior Manager for a Fortune 100 company only four years after my graduation from business school. The MBA provided me with the skills I needed to transition from the military to the business world, and refined the skills that I already possessed from my time in the service.


Tereh is now the CEO and Managing Director of Next Level Admissions Advisors. Check out their website at:

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