Missions, raids, patrols, clearing, firefights: no sweat. That was the daily rhythm of my unit’s deployment to Iraq. We were tasked with massive operations to root out insurgents, and in some cases undermanned and outgunned by an entrenched foe. We didn’t stop to think if it couldn’t be done. We simply moved toward the sound of gunfire.
But when conversation drifted to college—the post-military plan of most of the guys in my infantry company—an air of apprehension swirled around. Many of us didn’t do well in high school and figured it had been too long since algebra and English class. Ironically, higher education seemed like a risky move to a group of folks fighting in a brutal counterinsurgency campaign.
Veterans sometime limit themselves when going after higher education, but it doesn’t have to be that way, says Barbara Mujica, a professor at Georgetown University who also acts as a faculty adviser for the student Veterans chapter there.
From The Huffington Post:
They can overcome the obstacles. After years of service in Iraq or Afghanistan, the apathetic seventeen-year-old has matured. […] Veterans needing to ease their way back into academic life or fulfill requirements can complete a year at a community college and then apply to transfer to a more competitive one.
Mujica mentions an important path that many Veterans take. Community colleges can help ease Veterans back into academia and boosting confidence along the way. Several of my Army buddies went this route and were surprised at how well they did. They’ve all since transferred to more challenging and prestigious universities and are doing well. Some have already graduated—a feat hard to imagine back in Iraq.
There are other ways to help make your academic career successful. Check to see if your dream school waives SAT/ACT requirements for older or transfer students. You can also get involved with your SVA chapter (or start a new one), which can help direct you to resources on campus and connect with fellow Veterans along the way. And VA is stepping up with Vet Success support networks on college campuses across the country.
If you haven’t started school yet but plan to use VA education benefits soon, don’t sell yourself short. You’ve done some remarkable things in the military, and school can be just another mission instead of a bridge too far.