Transitions: From military to college

It’s no secret that the military members have amazing college benefits. Several service men and women going the military to get access to a college education.

With wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down and enhancements to the GI Bill, colleges and universities are expecting a surge in veteran enrollment unseen since World War II.

Even though being a soldier might make getting into and paying for higher education a bit easier, the transition from military life to college life comes with its fair share of challenges. Everything from being in a new environment to dealing with people from very different backgrounds can and has caused veterans to feel hopeless, out of place and need extra college programs designed specifically to help them transition.

Education is a gift, it’s a gift everyone should have the opportunity to participate in and if there are mental barriers along the way, these might help you tear them down:

1. Prepare for the move

Don’t assume that because you’ve been in a high-intensity environment, travelled the world and seen things most people couldn’t imagine, moving into college will be a piece of cake. Take the time to do some research, remember that it’s a completely different lifestyle and one isn’t “easier” than the other. Just different.

2. Pick the right school

There are several factors when picking the right university for anyone – location, specialty, sub-schools, sports, size, etc. etc.

Transitioning out of the military might mean a military-friendly school is a big factor. Each year, Military Times compiles a list of the best colleges for veterans. Factoring in assistance programs, numbers of other vets, size, location, etc… it’s worth taking a look at to know your options.

3. Come in with an open mind

Along with our first tip, it’s easy to get into the mindset that going to school again will look a certain way. Many military members transitioning back into school or college don’t recognize that this is the first time in years that they will be with people they don’t share a unified goal with and, in general, are much younger than them.

Vets often say they feel out of place on campuses because they are older and cannot connect with students who come straight from high school. Take a second and think about sitting in a classroom with students straight from high school, about 18-years-old, who are sharing their opinions about the military and government… several vets run into this situation and feel alienated or defensive. Come into those situations with an open mind, listen to your peers, let your horizons expand. That’s why you’re back in school anyways, right?

4. It’s all about you now

Your identity in school will no longer be soldier. You will no longer have other people telling you where to go, when, how quickly, what to do, etc. It’s all about you and your new identity as a student studying in your field.

For some, this part of school can be a bit tricky. You are your own leader, you are focused on your own goals and for the first time in years, you don’t have someone giving to tasks to complete (sometimes without knowing the whole story) but instead you’re finding your own journey with a goal in mind.

5. Basic transitioning anxieties

Of course, with all of the general anxiety that goes into moving to a university, picking classes, doing homework and managing to create friendships, veterans often come into schools with new anxieties and disabilities related to their time serving that can interfere with their learning aptitude.

While some face new physical disabilities and have to re-learn motions while learning in class, others face social and fear-based anxieties. Talking to a counselor who’s worked with veterans is key. It might be as easy as picking the right seat in class so you can monitor the movements and motions throughout the room, but getting someone to talk to about a plan to overcome new challenges is key.


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