Service Academy Representation at HBS

For those curious about historical military representation at HBS, I've done some research as to the number of military students at the business school since WWII. Historically the school did not have a way to capture military affiliation for its students, which makes precise numbers difficult if not impossible, but HBS does track undergraduate schools, which naturally includes military academies. I can therefore use military academy representation as a proxy for the total trends in veteran attendance at HBS. I'll explain more of this in a bit. For now, here is the data on US military academy representation at HBS (click to expand):

In the upper right hand corner of the above chart is the total number of military at HBS since 2000, which I have been able to calculate directly in the past (see note here). My data shows service academies  roughly represent about half of the military at HBS over the past 14 classes (to be precise 54% average with a 19% standard deviation), so if that rule stands going backwards pre-2000, we can interpret the above chart not just for service academy interest, but also by doubling the numbers for the total number of military veterans at the school. The one exception of this is probably in the late 1940s, when the number of veterans was probably extremely high, and dwarfed the service academy students.

Here are some observations:

  • The peak years for veteran representation were during the HBS Classes of 1971-1973 (students entering from 1969 to 1971). It's unclear from the data whether the school was being proactive to admit Vietnam Veterans, or whether more veterans were applying. For those classes, it's likely there were over 100 veterans in each graduating class.
  • The average military academy representation since WWII has been around 15 per year, which would support the argument for an average of ~30 military students per year. Since 2000, the average however has been 20 service academy students and 39 total US military per class, so slightly higher than historical average.
  • The lowest representation was post-Vietnam, from 1975-1985.
  • Except for the peak Vietnam War years, representation was very consistent and flat from 1955-1995. Since the mid 90s, there have been some periods of high variability, and a general increase.

Proportion of Service Academies at HBS

One can look at the chart above to see which service academies were represented when, but I also normalized the data to more clearly show the proportion within the academies themselves (click on the following graph):

Some observations:

  • The dominant sources are USMA and USNA, which both have averaged around 7 per year since WWII, with a standard deviation of 5. 
  • USMA slightly leads on USNA, with a total of around 500 USMA alumni versus 450 USNA alumni. 
  • The third highest is USAFA alumni with 78, followed by USCG with 39, and Merchant Academy with 25, although the latter has only had 2 since 1990.
  • Since 2004, USMA alumni have outnumbered USNA alumni by a factor of over 2 to 1.
  • The greatest disparity occurred during the HBS classes of 1965-1969, meaning application years of 1962-1966, when USMA representation was only around 20% of the service academies. If one tries to analyze this as a phenomenon of the Vietnam war years, and compares it to post 9/11, it leads to inconsistent results, since USMA/USNA representation held largely steady post 9/11.

Before reading too much into any of this data, one needs to remember that:
  • Admissions to HBS depends a lot on the philosophy and leadership of both the Dean of the school and the Dean of Admissions, which naturally change over time, and shape the makeup of the admission classes. It is therefore difficult to know if these results are more due to the school or the application pools changing.
  • This data is not official, and while very accurate, it is not 100% accurate... it carries a slight margin of error, though it is the most accurate data I'm aware of.
  • One should not interpret anything here to imply whether one undergraduate source is any more competitive than another, as from an admission point of view, all are highly respected, and one's personal and professional performance far outweighs the actual academy itself.

I hope this helps provide some historical context.