Read Parts 1 and 2 of Military Transition and the JD/MBA: 

Part 1: Setting Career Goals
Part 2: The Path to your Goals

If I haven’t scared you off yet, you want to get down to brass tacks—how you apply. Veteran applicants are really no different than any others. You have the same requirements and need the same quality of experiences. There is a wealth of information out there about the application process. I don’t have many golden nuggets to add, except to say that by thinking long and hard about why you’re applying, you’ve done most of the heavy lifting and probably have an advantage in the application process for both schools. Applying to any school is as much about your narrative as it is your academic prowess or accomplishments. Admissions committees seek to identify people who have potential, motivation, and a plan to succeed. Don’t fret about having an imperfect and incomplete plan; it’s more about demonstrating that you’ve thought through what your goals are, how you’re going to get there, and the role the JD/MBA plays in that journey. Have great explanations and answers for that in your written materials, recommendations, and interviews. 

In addition, consider that many well-qualified veterans are not admitted to HLS and HBS every year. Evaluate the strength of your application relative to other veterans. Other than your military record, what makes you special or unique relative to everyone else? Ultimately, having the perfect hoo-ah/hoo-rah/hoo-yah military resume will not earn you acceptance if you can’t tell a strong story about what you uniquely will contribute to the class and do with your degree. Harvard is investing in you; your story should be about driving return on that investment. Similar to military promotions, being admitted is not about what you’ve done. It’s about what you’re going to do. 

There are other posts on the JD/MBA that address summer internships, but I’ll add a couple of things relevant to veterans. You have at least three internships in the Harvard JD/MBA (potentially more if you intern over the winter, while you are in school, or via study abroad). There are multiple ways to think about them: using a series of opportunities to build your skills and experience towards pivoting into a full-time job that is difficult to get, taking advantage of nearly risk-free options to try different fields or roles, or having time to invest in a startup or other personal or professional endeavor. In determining which path (or mix of multiple) you seek to take, consider your career objectives, level of confidence in the hypothesis and plan you have about what you want to do, and competing priorities. There are no wrong answers, but veterans should be careful to maximize internship opportunities. 

Getting the Most Out of the JD/MBA
For whatever it’s worth (and this is just my point of view), veterans matriculating in the JD/MBA program should focus on maximizing the benefits from two incredible aspects of the program. First, dream big, chart your own course, and don’t take no for an answer (though you should get used to hearing it). The JD/MBA community of students and alumni is full of inspiring people who chart their own course. Independence and entrepreneurship (of many types) are the hallmarks of JD/MBAs. Your peers will be running startups based around the world, starting nonprofits, working in senior levels of government, establishing themselves as successful investors, teaching classes at Harvard, and beyond—all while in school and/or having or building families. It is not unusual for a JD/MBA student to take a significant load of academic credits while balancing numerous commitments and activities. Veterans may find themselves right at home in this environment. 

Second, the JD/MBA program opens to you the entirety of opportunity at two of Harvard’s most storied schools. Take full advantage of it and leave nothing on the table. Leverage the unique programs at each school that allow you to receive academic credit for learning outside the classroom and on the front lines of business, law, and policy. HBS has multiple programs that will allow you to work on a startup for credit, research a topic of interest with a professor, travel to work with a local company in a foreign country, and more. For example, I have been wonderfully fortunate to have the opportunities to write an HBS case with Professor Kristin Mugford ’93 and to travel to Israel for the January term for an Immersive Field Course with Professor Paul Gompers PhD ‘93. HLS has funded Spring Break pro bono trips, study abroad programs, and clinics that allow you to work in the community. Through HLS, I was fortunate to work in the U.S. Senate, which has been an amazing experience. Take school seriously, but think beyond classes and activities. The faculty at both schools and at the wider university is a remarkable group of accomplished people who want to help you and can mentor you through an otherwise difficult transition. Get to know them. And spend as much time as you can with your fellow students. Your friendships and relationships will take on great meaning for years long after graduation.