Current and newly transitioning service members who assume control of their college careers may initially find it a challenge. When you’re accustomed to following a regimented schedule, it can be tough managing study sessions, test preparation, assignments and interaction with new peers. Yet, the discipline and training that you’ve honed during your service — such as time management, attentiveness, and organization — can give you an edge in succeeding as a student.
As a veteran, you’re also empowered in a unique way. You have a singular worldview as a result of your experience and access to benefits that other students aren’t eligible for, such as the GI Bill. If you’re ready to pursue your degree, here are five tips for succeeding in college as a veteran.
1. Develop a Plan
Planning is key when preparing for military operations, and taking the next steps in your education is no different. Prospective students should contact their schools of choice for academic advising. An advisor can help answer questions about a particular area of study or degree plan. This ensures that you take the proper subjects in order to earn your degree. To be a successful student, consult with your professors and advisors about your course options before registering for classes.
2. Connect With a Veteran’s Administrator About Your Benefits
If you’ve been on active duty for at least two years, you’re entitled to certain benefits through the GI Bill. The bill provides students with a direct monthly payment they can use to cover fees, tuition, books, and other costs. Be sure to find the veteran’s office on campus, where you can connect with an administrator to discuss your unique situation. A veteran’s administrator can guide you through the process of claiming your benefits and the various documents you need to complete.
3. Create a Network
College is the ideal place to begin building a network of peers and future professionals. These connections, made both in and out of the classroom, can help you with your career trajectory. Networking is also a great way to find mentors who can provide valuable advice for your goals and point you in the right academic direction. A mentor could also help reduce culture shock, open the door to new opportunities and introduce you to new people.
4. Utilize Military-Specific Student Groups
Connecting with a military community on campus can help new veterans relate to the challenges of transitioning into college and civilian life. Many institutions of higher learning offer veteran-specific orientations, classes and organizations, which can serve as a support system and source of comfort. Bonding with peers from similar backgrounds can also make a veteran student’s academic career more rewarding.
5. Get Involved
While a strong support network is important, don’t let your military group be the only individuals you interact with on campus. Daily contact with new people from various backgrounds can help enrich your experience. Getting involved in organizations such as sports leagues, honor societies, fraternities or sororities and civic or cultural groups is a great way to meet new people, discover your passions and unwind from the stresses of school.
College doesn’t have to be an unfamiliar, foreign ordeal after your time in the military. Today’s universities offer veterans convenient ways to gain the education they desire. By taking the right steps and utilizing the resources available, a veteran can successfully transition into life as a student.
Bio: Jeremy Silverstein is Vice President of Operations and Vehicle Dispatching at Veteran Car Donations. During the years he’s been with the organization, he has become quite an expert in the industry and has handled tens of thousands of donated vehicles.