Attaining further education to prepare for a career is an important step for many veterans as they return to civilian life. According to the Soldiers Project, out of the 2.5 million veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, one million are enrolled in colleges.
But, as the University of Oregon observes, the transition from active duty to a college campus can be challenging and stressful:
Many veterans will be returning from an extended period of exposure to severe emotional or mental trauma, hypervigilance, and highly stressful working and living conditions. As they return to school, some may experience difficulty and frustration adjusting to the stress and demands of college life. Many may experience emotional and cognitive impairments that interfere with their ability to study, concentrate and perform academically. They may also experience family or interpersonal problems that affect social functioning. The added stress of social and interpersonal problems will also negatively affect academic functioning. These issues, when coupled with the challenges related to returning to general civilian life, place returning veteran students at a significantly higher risk of dropping out.
Some of the challenges include creating a personal identity that doesn’t include being a soldier, finding meaning in experiences that don’t drive adrenaline levels through life-and-death situations, relating to other college students who never experienced military service and who might be younger, and having to make a greater number of personal decisions.
Paul Szoldra, a former Marine who has gone through college and spent time advising other veterans about how to make the shift offers advice. Here are some of his points:
- Recognize that you need to go through a transition from living under a regimented schedule to taking control over your own schedule. For example, other than the need to take certain sets of courses to fulfill various requirements, there is no set collection of studies. You have to decide what that should be for yourself.
- There are a wide variety of opinions and aspects of topics. Be open to them, even when, at first, you’re sure that they are wrong. Learning in college is as much about broadening your perspectives from the interaction with others as it is mastering course materials.
- Find other veterans on campus who understand what you’re going through. Also, check for veteran-specific orientations and classes that some schools offer to aid in the transition.
- Make sure you also interact with non-veterans. The broader your perspectives, the more you can understand the educational experience and eventually feel a full part of it.
American Sentinel University is proud to have been named as a “Military Friendly School” for the ninth consecutive year. This distinction puts American Sentinel in the top 20 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools nationwide that do the most to embrace America’s military service members and veterans as students, and to dedicate resources to ensure their success both in the classroom and after graduation. Learn more about our military friendly education programs and distance learning courses.