10 Things Veterans Should Look For While Selecting A College

Take a look at the following statistics from Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation Poll as they will help put things into perspective:

  • 55% of those who served in the military feel disconnected from civilian life
  • 56% miss something from their time at war – typically their fellow soldiers or the companionship
  • 25% feel guilty about some of the things they did during war time

Returning to civilian life has been one of the biggest challenges for veterans. While most veterans feel the excitement of going back home to their loved ones, the transition period can nevertheless be really tough on them. Their biggest concern – how to transition from a rigid military lifestyle to civilian life. Many try to settle down in their “new” life by enrolling in a college or university, hoping to gain college-level credentials, essential in seeking a good job. However, it has not always been easy for some veterans to enroll in a college as they face the following questions and concerns:

Will I fit in?

Is going back to college the answer?

How do I search for the right college?

Will my traumatizing experiences in war make it difficult for me to get a normal college experience?

Are there any online schools for military I can look into?

Are there institutions in place to help me adjust back into civilian life?

With concerns like these, thinking about going to college can be distressing. However, if you have the right checklist of what veterans should look for in a college, the process will be far less daunting. Here is a list of 10 things that you ought to look for when considering a college:

 

  • Welcoming Spirit and Respect: Look for a military-friendly college that understands settling down in civilian life is not always easy – a college that respect this fact and do everything in their power to make transition easier for veterans. Make sure the college understands veterans’ interests both on and off campus. Picture yourself as part of the college community and see if it feels comfortable and sufficiently supported.

 

  • Cost: Cost of a degree is a concern for any college applicant. Consider colleges that fall well within your budget. However, in case of veterans, some special benefits or scholarships might be available. This could be offered by the state or by the university itself. Ask for details regarding financial benefits relating to veterans at the university admissions office.

 

 

  • Yellow Ribbon and other Benefits: The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill is applicable to all schools. But some colleges go further and voluntarily take part in the Yellow Ribbon Program with the Veterans Administration. This means that these colleges are willing to provide funds for veterans in addition to those made available to them through the G.I. Bill. Schools like these, which go beyond the basics, are the ones to look for.

 

  • Staff that Knows Veterans’ Affairs: Navigating and understanding the postsecondary benefits available to veterans can be tricky. The G.I. Bill, for instance, is a formal legal document which enlists the benefits available to veterans, including tuition for education, living expenses or loans to start a business, etc. So, when selecting a college, make sure that the staff in charge of admissions has sufficient knowledge of these benefits for veterans and are in a position to advice accordingly.

 

 

  • Ability to Use Military Experience in Return for Credit: Many veterans who have taken classes and grasped critical skills during their active military service, might be able to get this experience counted towards college credits. Look for college programs that make their policies on this matter clear. If the policies are not clear, ask about them.

 

  • Flexibility: One of the toughest parts about going back into a traditional college setup is the flexibility element. Most veterans have jobs and families to take care of and therefore prefer a relaxed academic schedule and calendar. Colleges that offer more time to complete regular degrees or allow switching from day classes to night/weekend classes should be preferred. Similarly, the best online colleges for military are those that offer the option of taking classes at times that are convenient for the students with a pace that suits them the best. This way, veterans would not have to worry about managing their jobs along with their continuing education.

 

 

  • A Devoted Career Center: The main reason behind going back to college is to land a good job. The job market out there is tough, especially for veterans, who may have come back with a lot of emotional baggage. Therefore, look for colleges that have strong career advisory teams, which make genuine efforts to get the perfect placements for veterans. Ask yourself these questions: Do they hold regular career development sessions and have multiple opportunities available to them via different channels? Do they review resumes and hold networking events? Do they have special training sessions to prepare veterans to adjust to the job market? Answers to these questions will help you determine the quality of a college’s career services.

 

  • Support Services: Due to the trauma of experiencing war firsthand, some veterans suffer from physical or mental illnesses. Have a look at these statistics:
    • 43% state that their physical health is worse since their return from war
    • 31% say that their emotional and mental health has worsened since returning from war
      (Source: Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation Poll)

With numbers like these, it is very important for veterans to consider the presence of support services in a college. Potential services to look out for include mental and physical care personnel, priority enrollment and housing for veterans, etc. These services can go on to have a big impact on how easily veterans adjust to their new life and how involved they feel in the community around them.

  • Student Clubs and Activities for Veterans: Most schools have clubs dedicated to veterans. If the school you are looking into does not have one, you should be concerned. These societies and clubs play an integral part in helping veterans integrate into the community and familiarize themselves with others like them, while participating in traditional campus activities such as sports, elections, music events, etc.

 

  • Future Plans: Just like with other college applicants, veterans also select a school that suits their future plans. Therefore, having a clear future plan before enrolling into a school is critically important for the veterans as well. Lay out a future plan for yourself and look for colleges that offer educational paths that coincide with your plan. This could be a business plan you intend on working on, or a particular kind of career you want to go into.

Settling down in civilian life and going back to college doesn’t have to be daunting. While the above mentioned 10-point checklist may not alleviate your war-related stress, it will certainly help you zero in on the best college for you.

 

 

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