When you’re done serving in the military, you might be thinking about earning a degree. Being in the military likely means you had to put off college for a few years or more, which can make the military-to-college transition a bit of a challenge. However, knowing about these challenges ahead of time and finding ways to overcome them can make this transition go much more smoothly. Keep the following in mind to help you understand some issues you might face and what you can do about them when you decide to pursue higher education as part of your career or life goals.
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Challenges Faced by Veterans Transitioning to College
What kinds of difficulties do veteran students sometimes face when going to college after military service? One of the challenges you might face is simply due to your age. Most students start college when they turn 18, but those in the military aren’t always able to do this.
Starting college after being in the military means you’ll be a little older than your classmates. As a veteran student, you’re also ahead of your fellow students in terms of experience. This age difference often goes hand in hand with feelings of isolation. You might not find it easy to relate to other students who are younger than you or those who have not had military experience. You might also deal with hostility from students or civilians who have anti-military views.
The challenges you face when going to college after military service might also include physical or mental disabilities. For example, you might have a physical disability that makes it more difficult to get to your classes or get around your college campus. If you’re dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or another mental disability, you might also find it hard to sit through classes or interact with others. Another challenge you might have is being able to juggle college with other responsibilities, such as a family, especially if you’re an older college student. Fortunately, there are ways to handle common challenges that service members sometimes encounter when going to college.
Tips for Service Members Going to College After the Military
Although dealing with challenges from a military-to-college transition might seem stressful, keep in mind that you’re not alone. Many veteran students have been in your shoes and they have been able to overcome these difficulties. Those who are making this transition now are currently figuring out how to handle them. Learning about these challenges before you begin this process can give you a head start on tackling these difficulties or even avoiding them. The following tips can help you deal with any problems that come up during or after the transition to college.
1. Connect with Other Veterans
If you’re having trouble relating to other students or finding activities that you’re interested in doing with them, look for other veterans. Finding other veteran students to connect with can provide you with a sense of community that might be hard to find with fellow students who have not been in the military. Connecting with other veterans can also give you a source of emotional support that can make it less stressful for you to handle other challenges you might be facing when going to college.
Where can you find other veterans? Depending on where you end up going to school, you might not have to look far. Your school might have a veteran group on campus, so that those who have served in the military can find fellow veterans more easily. Your campus might also have a veteran center that can help you connect with other veteran students. If your school doesn’t have a veteran center or a veteran group, you can check with local community groups to see if any members are going to college. Even if they don’t attend the same school as you, they share your experience as fellow students making the military-to-college transition.
2. Set Goals
When you’re looking into the college application process, take time to set goals. This means thinking about what you want to do in terms of a career so that you’ll find a college and degree program that fits your needs. Consider why you’re going to college and what type of degree you might want to earn. This information can help ensure that you end up applying to colleges that meet your higher education and career goals. When you’re thinking about these goals, you should also consider the job outlook for the career you want to make sure there will be job opportunities available after you graduate.
It’s important to set education and career goals in order to avoid spending time on classes that might not help you reach your goals. For example, you might sign up for any classes and worry about figuring out your major and degree program later on. However, going to college after the military means you’re already starting your higher education later than many other students. Determining goals beforehand can help ensure that you’re still able to graduate on time instead of having to spend an additional semester or two taking courses to satisfy your degree program requirements.
3. Research Financial Aid Options
One of the most important aspects of making the transition from military to college is making sure you can afford it. Being in the military provides you with access to certain benefits that can help you pay for your college education. When you’re exploring options for colleges, make sure you do research on financial aid. You should start with the military benefits you might be eligible for based on your service, such as tuition assistance or education benefits from the Post 9/11 GI Bill. You’ll need to check the specific details on eligibility to see which benefits you can use and how to use them.
You can contact your local Veterans Affairs office to find out more about education benefits for service members. The college you apply to might also be able to provide you with assistance in determining which military education benefits you’re eligible for. Keep in mind that colleges also have other financial aid options available, if needed, such as grants and loans. Exploring all of your options for financial aid can help ease your mind when it comes to paying for your college education. Knowing what you’re eligible for in terms of your military education benefits can also help you worry less about choosing the most affordable college and focus more on finding the one that fits your needs.
4. Online or On-Campus Classes
You don’t necessarily have to attend college in person. If you have family members to care for or other responsibilities in your life, an online college might offer a more suitable option. Online colleges often let you watch lectures and classes at your convenience rather than requiring you to attend at certain times. This can make it easier for you to handle your other responsibilities while still being able to get a college education. Online classes might also be a good option if you have a disability that might make it hard to go to classes in person. Keep in mind that exploring online colleges means you’ll have more school options to choose from. Going in person can limit you to local colleges only if you’re unable to attend an out-of-state or international school.
If you’re worried about feeling isolated from others, you still have the option to choose a traditional college where you’ll attend classes in person. This might be a better option for you if you handle classroom learning better than virtual learning or if you prefer being around others rather than on your own. You might also be able to do a mix of online and on-campus classes depending on the college you go to.
5. Enroll in a Military-friendly College
One of the best ways to make the switch from the military to college easier is by enrolling in a military-friendly college. These schools have several resources available to make this transition go smoothly for service members. How can you tell if a college is a military-friendly one? These schools tend to offer academic assistance that’s specifically for veterans or active service members. These colleges usually have a veteran center available, as well as veteran groups. They also offer financial support for veteran students and other military students and provide military-specific career resources. Enrolling in one of these schools can help you transition to college from the military more easily.
If you’re planning on going to college after the military, please contact Post University for more information. We offer detailed information on the steps involved in how to get into college after military, as well as specific admissions requirements.
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