Many Veterans think they experience culture shock when they make the transition from military to civilian life, but an even greater transitional shock is the one experienced when Veterans enter college for the first time. The most common advice comes in studying hard and managing your time well, but here are five overlooked adjustments from life as a Veteran to life as an student.
College isn’t just about studying
Many Veterans feel as though they can’t relate to traditional college age students. Relations occur in college just like the service by joining groups and working together as a team whether it’s a sports team or an academic team. Friendships are forged on the field just like the service.
There are other Veterans in college
According to the American Council on Education more than 60 percent of the colleges across the U.S have programs and services specifically for military members and with the advent of the Post-9/11 G.I Bill the numbers of Veterans enrolling in colleges across the country has increased. Many Veteran college students have formed peer groups such as the Student Veterans of America which has more than 500 chapters around the country so Veterans can offer each other camaraderie and support.
It’s a Dual transition
Military members attending college are transitioning to both college life and civilian life. Unlike the structured routine of military life, college life is relatively free flowing with a lot of choices. Returning Veterans will find the less structured environment challenging however this can be mitigated by setting up a schedule, joining groups to socialize and setting clear goals.
The mission remains
Just like the service, it’s all about the mission, and this mission is to graduate. Higher education’s dirty little secret is that graduation rates differ across institutions but not everyone gets a degree. Earning a degree is just like earning rank because it takes hard work and discipline and lots of studying. Using the transferable skills that made you a successful servicemember such as working hard, paying attention and staying on time will help you earn a degree.
Everybody is in transition
College students come in all shapes and sizes and everyone is adjusting to the new routine of college life. Military members have some additional transitional issues which add to the stress such as working and having a family, and it’s okay to reach out to the college community to find a friendly face in the administration to help guide you.
Kevin K Dean is the Veterans Certificate Coordinator at SUNY Empire State College’s Center for Graduate Studies.