If there’s anything Special Operators do well, it’s identify a good deal and jump on it with gusto. Thus, I was unsurprised when I arrived at Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business’s two-week program, “The Next Step: Transition to Business” (TNS), to find that a significant portion of my classmates were fellow members of USSOCOM, all at the point in their careers at which it is time to think about what comes next. The conventional forces were likewise represented by a superb contingent of soldiers, sailors, airpersons and Marines but the coolest part of the class composition was the presence of elite athletes; Olympians, Paralympians, and National Champions across a wide distribution of sports. That’s by design. TNS is designed for “individuals who have spent their career in the armed forces or elite athletics and who are ready for a new phase in their life… and will benefit immensely—and immediately by obtaining the edge they desire to transition successfully into a new and rewarding career.” In my cohort, that meant seventy people in a 50/50 mix of military members and elite athletes.
Does it sound like anyone you know might benefit? Maybe someone who might seek to #DieLiving? Yeah, I thought so.
Let’s be clear. I am not a business guy. I have a pathological fear of Excel spreadsheets. Phrases like “P/E ratio” and “Accounts Receivable” find my eyes glazing over as I alternate between intense anxiety and deep contemplation of whether Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dutch in Predator could beat up Arnold Schwarzenegger as John Matrix in Commando (the answer is yes). However, TNS is NOT an MBA program. More akin to a therapy session taking place in an idea factory, TNS is an amazing two-weeks for people who have been hyper-focused on one thing for a long time and now need to shift gears to something else while surrounded by similarly situated people. That something else is business. And as there is no denying that business concepts touch pretty much any endeavor we may choose to undertake in life, it’s a pretty important one.
TNS is an amazing venue in which to hear world-class business leaders and professors offer their insights on finance, leadership, consulting, human resources, entrepreneurship, communications and strategy. As a military officer, the leadership, communications and strategy classes were naturally of great interest. But even a dolt like me got something out of the classes on Excel and Accounting because there was no pressure to do anything but learn as much as I could, an outcome in which every professor was clearly invested.
TNS is not all classroom lectures though. There are dinners focused on hearing business leaders speak from the heart about how they became successful, networking events in which Marine Sergeants rub shoulders with billionaires and opportunities to work out with Olympic Gold Medalists. In short, it is a unique and amazing experience. So do I have your attention yet? Good. Let’s talk details.
The TNS application committee “focuses on fit more than set criteria” but the target applicant has at least three years of experience in the military or as a national team level elite athlete, is recently separated or retired, or relatively close to doing so, and has plans to pursue a business career. In my class, there were the aforementioned service members, which was great, but no one ever made #GAINZ by staying in their comfort zone. So sitting and talking to athletes who had dedicated themselves wholly to being the best in the world at something really hard was for me the most valuable element of the program. I could not talk to the captain of the 2018 Women’s Olympic Gold Medal Hockey Team, or one of two women who took the only US Gold EVER in Cross Country Skiing in 2018, or a member of the 2016 Olympic Gold Medal Women’s Rowing team without realizing that there are people in this world doing amazing, worthwhile things that don’t involve getting shot at (and yeah, there were some accomplished male athletes too, but these women were particularly badass). For me, perhaps the most singularly important night at TNS involved talking about fear with a member of New Zealand’s Olympic Swim team and an Olympic Biathlete who was years out of competition and the work force and looking to re-enter it after many years. Hearing about their challenges, their concerns and their goals going forward was incredibly helpful. That epiphany was worth the price of admission alone.
So what is the price of admission? Great question! You’re clearly on your way to business success. The answer is a two category scale based on your Adjusted Gross Income. If your AGI is above $70, 000, you pay $5,000. If your AGI is below $70,000, you pay $2,500. Financial aid is available (I got a stipend courtesy of a generous donor). $1,000 is due as a deposit at enrollment with the balance due before the program begins. Of further note, TNS is GI Bill eligible and is also approved for funding by a number of military charities.
What about housing? It’s in the tuition. We stayed in the Hanover Inn in downtown Hanover, New Hampshire. It’s a gorgeous hotel with great food in walking distance of the Tuck School of Business and anything else you might want when not in sessions.
And food you say? There were nights I either hit a restaurant with classmates or cruised out for a quick bite myself, but breakfast and lunch, along with about half of the dinners, are rolled into the tuition. And the food is legit. Surrounded by elite athletes, I focused on my nutrition and tried to mimic their choices despite my military-conditioned palate that pretty much just wants meat, carbs and caffeine.
But surely travel drives the cost up, right? Nope. JetBlue donated the tickets for the class, so they flew me from DC to Boston for free. From there, the Dartmouth Coach carries you the rest of the way to Hanover and back for $38 each way.
Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “that all sounds great but I haven’t finished my bachelor’s degree yet.” Not a problem. It turns out that being a world-class athlete or a military member may mean you haven’t closed out that aspect of your development due to other requirements like…I don’t know…intense alpine skiing training or multiple combat deployments. TNS applicants do not need to have achieved a specific level of education. The curriculum is designed for participants with no educational background in business, finance, economics, accounting, etc. All you have to do is commit to come all day, every day, including nights and weekends and do the pre-program online modules and reading before arriving on campus.
And that’s what TNS is all about: commitment. Commitment by the donors, faculty and staff of the Dartmouth University to give back to those who have committed themselves to the nation on their behalf. Go get yours at the link: http://nextstep.tuck.dartmouth.edu/ .