As an army veteran returning from duty to civilian life, you will have to make various adjustments. It won’t be easy to get back to how life was when you left for duty. Although the military provides a valuable experience to everyone, it can sometimes be challenging to translate into a civilian’s lifestyle back home. Often, army veterans decide to go for a college education, polishing the skills they learned during active service. After all, combining education with military experience can be a valuable asset for anyone. However, it won’t be easy to accomplish this feat.
Adjusting to college life is already difficult enough, and doing so as an army veteran is on another level on its own. Most college students are transitioning from school to college, are in their late teens, and single. On the other hand, according to numerous studies, around 40 percent of veteran college students have families. The adjustment they’ll have to make will be tough. However, these adjustments are not impossible. Listed down below are x tips for veterans who want to navigate the challenges of going back to school after retiring from active duty.
Search for veteran-populated colleges
When you begin your search to find the perfect college, consider looking for ones with a high number of student veterans already present on campus. Such a presence of veteran students usually means that there will also be veteran administrators or officers on campus. It means that professors and teachers will already be familiar with a veteran student’s unique requirements and needs.
They will know that you have children to spend time with and a family to look after. And you might need some help to make your transition into civilian life a whole lot easier. For example, institutions that offer an online masters homeland security degree will already have numerous veteran students onboard. The homeland department already prefers hiring army veterans over civilians, and acquiring a degree such as this will be a big plus.
Consider the CLEP (College Level Examination Program)
Even though you will receive some benefits as a veteran, the fact of the matter is- college can be expensive. The CLEP (College Level Examination Program) allows you to trade your experience with college credits. There are various types of examinations – some subjective, others general that can translate up to six credits each.
While the CLEP itself costs some money, it is nothing compared to the amount you cash you will have to pay for college tuition. So, consider giving the CLEP if you want to earn credits and skip introductory courses. In the end, the fewer credits you take up, the less money you will have to pay.
Don’t assume that admission officers will know military jargon
As with every career type, the military is full of its own vocabulary and technical terms. Remember that people who were never in the army will not understand military terminology, especially ranks and titles. When applying to a civilian college, try to translate all military terminology into layman’s terms.
Explain to the admissions officer the roles you had when you were in the army, the skills you excelled at, and what you did. For instance, you can say that you learned leadership skills in your army career. Include your title and ranks, but also try to incorporate a civilian equivalent title. It will help the admissions officer relate to and understand your role.
Apply for scholarships and financial aid
Even if you qualify for GI benefits, you should still apply for a scholarship or financial aid. The GI bill will not cover all your college expenses. Financial help can come in the form of student loans, grants, or bank loans. Applying for a grant is preferable since you won’t have to pay it back. You can also apply to work on campus and use the money earned to pay for on-campus accommodation or tuition. Though, don’t expect that you’ll make thousands of dollars from an on-campus job.
Besides financial aid, you can also apply for a scholarship, which you won’t have to pay back. However, a scholarship will only cover a particular amount of your college tuition fees. There are various scholarships available for bright college students, and especially for veterans. Just visit the veteran administrator’s office and ask if there are any such scholarship programs available for veterans.
Talk to your academic advisor
An academic advisor will probably be assigned to you when you enroll in college. Some colleges might have veteran-specific academic advisors, no matter the degree program. If there isn’t one available, consider talking to one that works within your area of study.
An academic advisor will guide you through your college classes and your entire educational experience. They have a wealth of information and can also help you decide which college major to go for. So, talk to your academic advisor and with him or her your experience in the army. If you aren’t sure about your educational goals, the academic advisor will often help you make the right decisions.
You have to realize that being an army veteran makes you unique, regardless of where you go. While there are tons of tips for succeeding in college after leaving the military, you have to stick to your core military values. These include ethics, courage, honor, commitment, and excellence. If you practice them in your college life, nothing can stop you from acquiring the degree you want!