5 Ways Colleges Can Help Facilitate The Transition From Military to Civilian Life

Five Ways Universities Are Helping Veterans

  • Fostering Communitas
  • Extramural Programs
  • Flexible Student Living Arrangements
  • Strength-Focused Curricula
  • Veteran Student Services Outreach

For many veterans, going to college post-military is a natural step in their reintegration to civilian life. But such a transition requires the active participation of colleges and universities to help veterans succeed, both in their studies and as members of society. Below are five ways colleges and universities in American are assisting veterans to reintegrate into a civilian culture.

Ranking: 30 Best Military-Friendly Colleges

1. Lodging and Flexible Accommodations

When it comes to enrolling in college, many veterans are more mature than the average freshman student. Regarding living arrangements, they may wish to lodge on or off campus, which can sometimes clash with general school mandates. Some universities require first-time first-year students to stay in assigned dorms on campus. While this is intended to ease the transition to college life, it can often force retired military personnel into living arrangements that aren't beneficial. That's why many universities, such as The Ohio State University, now offer flexible arrangements. If campus lodging is desired, there are options to bunk with other veterans. However, they are often permitted to tailor their living arrangements to their personal needs.

2. Teaching to Strength

Many veterans are skilled in a variety of fields. They have strong communication skills, are excellent team players, and understand the value of peer mentoring and leadership. However, because they often juggle some stressful burdens during their return to the less structured life of a civilian, they can feel alienated in many of their classroom environments. Universities that involve instructors and professors in their plans to help veteran students tend to have greater success when it comes to helping these individuals. This approach allows teachers recognize veterans and draw on their social and academic strengths during lectures and activities.

3. Extramural Programs

Of course, many veteran students return to college with the focus on attaining a new skill. But play and service are essential components of their psychosocial well-being. Extramural programs, in this sense, refer to any group activity beyond the narrow scope of scholastic credit that encourages social interaction, gameplay and friendly competition or initiatives that benefit the community. When military personnel return to civilian life, they may be disoriented or distressed by the lack of structure or the fluid social negotiations that many individuals take for granted. Food, clothing, and activity are regulated in the armed services. The military often gives recreation an allotted window of time. Student activities and charitable programs offer veterans opportunities to engage and adjust at their own pace while providing a sense of accomplishment.

4. Rebuilding Ideation

Communitas is the spirit of community, a concept that goes hand in hand with an individual's self-ideation or their idea of who they are and where they fit in society. Even when the separation from military life is expected, a veteran can often feel cast adrift without a firm ideation or a community to which they think they belong. Colleges can help reestablish these core realms through student associations, study groups, on-campus activities, and academic societies. Universities are places in which options abound, and opportunities to develop new tastes, practices, and friendships are de rigueur.

5. Student Veteran Outreach

While program specifics differ from state to state and even one campus to another, one mission of veteran student resource offices everywhere is to ensure that veteran students are adjusting well and studying with a sense of purpose. They don't just hold information, waiting for students to come seeking. Instead, it is a part of practice that they reach out. They make contact with new veteran students, offer information about registration and required forms, and even work with the university to help with tuition costs. These offices also provide learning resources for veterans to help them cope with the stresses of transition, offer techniques for balancing new life roles, and counseling services as needed.

Returning to civilian life is one of the most stressful situations a soldier can face because they aren't trained for it. Even the bravest and most upright of soldiers can feel daunted at the prospect, uncertain of how it will turn out. That's why earning a degree can be a positive first step in the process. For veterans, going to college post-military offers both time and space in which to readjust to a now-unfamiliar social structure, which can help them lead healthier and more productive lives.