For retired military personnel, higher education is can be a pathway to return to civilian life, but many wonder if there are resources for veterans who are enrolled in college.
Veterans tend to bring a host of communication- and collaboration-oriented skills to their new endeavors, but they also face unique challenges. Several decades ago, the answer of whether there are colleges or universities that devote services and resources specifically to veterans might have been different. Today, nearly all college and university campuses devote resources to assisting these individuals.
If you’re a veteran who’s curious as to what resources or services may be earmarked for you, we have the answers below.
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Addressing the Challenges Veterans Face in Higher Education
Being a veteran at a college or university can bring with it a unique set of challenges. Transitioning from life in the military to life on campus can be tough, and it’s not uncommon for veterans to deal with feelings of isolation and other issues adjusting to life outside of the military.
There are other unique challenges veterans face when pursuing a college degree. According to a 2016 report by EAB, veteran service members tend to stand out regarding demographics. They are usually at least a few years older than most first-year students and have a more extensive array of experience, which can include living abroad and interacting with people of different cultures.
They also have experience in a team-oriented environment, which can enable them to take on responsibilities of student mentorship or support, but it can also make them reticent about standing out or being singled out.
That said, if you’re a veteran who’s concerned about adjusting to a new environment on a college campus, you should know that you’re in good company. During the first decades of the 21st century, American academia experienced a surge in veteran attendance, which means that there will be plenty of ex-military members on campus with you.
And, higher ed institutions have taken notice. Colleges and universities were and are ready to support veteran students who want to pursue a degree.
Common Types of On-Campus Resources for Veterans
Each higher ed institute will offer different resources to veteran students, but there’s a good chance that the college or program you choose to attend will have at least some resources in place to help you meet and surpass your goals.
It’s important to inquire about these types of programs when looking into degree programs and colleges you may want to attend. The more support you can get for your unique circumstances, the better of you will be, now and in the future.
That said, there are a number of common resources you can find on most campuses to help you out if you’re a veteran. These include:
Special school programs
Most colleges or universities have built programs to address the specific challenges and needs of these students. This can help you feel more at ease on campus or give you a direct line of access to the resources you need to succeed.
These resources can include specialized orientation programs to help veterans connect with one another or programs geared toward training faculty and staff on challenges veterans face.
On campus veteran centers
Some college campuses offer on-campus veteran centers to students who are also veterans. These centers were established to help veterans succeed on campus, and there are often unique resources available when visiting these centers.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has assigned special counselors to several schools to provide outreach services to student veterans.
VetSuccess on Campus
The Department of Veterans Affairs has a program called VetSuccess on Campus that is geared specifically toward helping veterans succeed in college. This program has assigned special counselors to certain schools to provide outreach services to student veterans.
Yellow Ribbon Programs
Some schools will voluntarily participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which is a program that provides additional financial support. This support goes beyond the benefits offered by the GI Bill, which can be a significant advantage to veteran students who need extra funding.
Extra counseling or financial aid
Some schools may also offer even more counseling and financial aid resources to veterans, which can be helpful when pursuing a degree.
Other Unique Resources to Help Veteran Students
One of the surprising struggles faced by some veteran students is the requirements most colleges have for admission. Whether it’s laborious paperwork requirements, standardized testing requirements, or other policies that don’t always align with your unique background, you may face some challenges during the application process.
Don’t panic if this happens. Academia and the military aren’t always streamlined, and it’s going to take some adjusting to make everything come together. Luckily, there may be special resources in place to help you navigate the new system.
Need paperwork help? It’s available
Some colleges offer specific help to veterans with advisement and financial aid paperwork. This can be especially useful if you’re using the GI Bill to fund your education since there can be a lag in communication between the military and the college or university you want to attend. The funds are there, but you may need someone to help you navigate how to utilize them and ensure you tick all the boxes to qualify.
Or, you may just need some guidance on how to meet the admissions requirements or get a waiver earmarked for certain populations — like veterans. Whether you need a list of SAT testing dates and locations or you need guidance navigating the process of requesting transcripts, most colleges will have help readily available for you and your unique circumstances.
Using professors as resources
You may find that there are other surprising resources on campus too, like your professors. Many colleges are working to ensure professors are ready and willing to offer resources and help to veteran students specifically.
Some colleges are even using outreach and information dissemination to ensure that their professors recognize the needs of veteran students. All of these tools can help professors better understand the unique challenges that veterans face in higher ed and help them find solutions that meet your needs.
Using key staff at colleges and universities as resources
This extra help on campus may even extend to administrators and even office personnel, as many colleges and universities are ensuring that their staff is prepared to offer tailored resources for veterans enrolled in college.
So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed before or after enrolling, reach out to the key employees at the institution. There’s a good chance they’ve been trained to help you with your unique needs. And that resource alone is very valuable.
Whatever you do, don’t give up on your education
Leaving life in the military to pursue a degree can be a frustrating, overwhelming process, but don’t let it knock you down. As a veteran, you’ll have access to unique resources to help you succeed, from the application process to the classes you take. Inquire early and often for information on what help is available during the admissions process and during enrollment. Find out what student groups or organizations the campus you attend offers.
And, most importantly, ask for help when you need it. There may be a resource in place that you weren’t aware of, and the only way you’ll know is to ask. All of these programs and resources are key to helping you succeed while pursuing your degree. You’ve earned the extra help by serving your country, so don’t be ashamed to take advantage of it.
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