From Academics to Healthcare: A Guide to College for the Military and Veterans
Military veterans often find it difficult to attend college after finishing their service. It’s not always because of a lack of assistance or resources. Many face a unique set of challenges given their experiences and needs which can make it harder to adjust to college life than it may be for other students.
If you are a veteran or know one who is looking to go to college soon, here are some resources you can use as a guide in your endeavor to return to school. We have linked sites that offer help in things like choosing the right school and getting various financial assistance. There are also resources that provide study and socializing tips to help you succeed in college.
Applying to Colleges
Here is some good news: veterans are actually encouraged by numerous prestigious universities to apply to their undergraduate programs. Institutions like Stanford University see veteran college students as an asset in diversifying their student body. The problem now is choosing which colleges to apply to.
Of course, you should consider the availability of the degree program you are planning to take as a major on equal footing with the university or college you choose. The National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator is a useful search engine you can use to finds schools depending on degree programs they offer.
You can also use the US Department of Veteran Affairs’ Education and Training infographic to know which colleges are part of the government’s Yellow Ribbon Program which offers assistance for veterans.
- National Center for Education Statistics: College navigator
- US Department of Veteran Affairs: Education and training
- National Commission for College Admission Counselling: Military to college guide
- Big Future: For veterans: How to find a college that’s right for you
Some of the many benefits of joining the military are the numerous financial benefits you will enjoy after serving.
From the government, there’s the Post 9/11 GI Bill which gives qualified veterans up to 36 months of financial assistance that they can use to pay for their post-secondary education. To qualify to enjoy the full benefits of this program, one must have served at least three years in active duty. However, 40% of the funds may already be accessed once 90 days of service have been completed.
Another way to get financial assistance for college is through the Yellow Ribbon Program which offers more funds for veterans who fully qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and are attending more expensive private schools.
You can also find plenty of other public and private scholarships and grants for veterans in the links below.
- Brainline: Financial resources for veterans returning to school
- Veterans Coming Home: Education resources
- American University: Student veteran guide to choosing a college, degree, and career
Many colleges and universities have specific programs or departments dedicated to helping their veteran students find housing on or near campus.
For example, Southern Illinois University has compiled a list of possible off-campus housing for their veteran students.
For emergencies, the Department of Veteran Affairs offers help to veterans facing an immediate threat of being homeless. To know more about this, check out the link below.
Academic Resources & Support
While veterans may have gained plenty of skills while in service, going to college may require a different set of skills to succeed.
There are plenty of tutorial and counseling services available for veterans who are struggling with their academic load. One example is Weber State University which has a specific program called Veterans Upward Bound meant to assist those who are struggling with their studies. Many colleges and universities have similar programs under the same name, so make sure to check and see what is available through your future school.
Social Resources & Support
As the college environment is vastly different from than the experience of serving one’s country, veterans might find it challenging to fit in socially and fully enjoy time in the academic environment.
To overcome this hurdle, it is that recommended that veterans seek help either through their college’s student guidance office or a local chapter of the government’s Veteran Affairs office if they find themselves struggling with the transition into student life.
We have linked some beneficial online resources which can also be useful for anxious veterans about to return to or enter college for the first time. Check out the linked episode of National Public Radio which specifically discusses the issue of returning members of the armed forces finding it difficult to relate to other college students.
- National Public Radio: Veterans struggle to fit into college campuses
- Mental Health VA: VA campus toolkit
Many veterans return home with physical and mental struggles after their service. It is important to make sure these challenges are being supported as they enter what may be another stressful type of environment.
The Disabled American Veterans is an organization which seeks to address, and assists in health issues veterans face upon returning home. It is advised that a veteran college student look up if a local chapter of this organization is present in their college town. Once a veteran becomes a member, they become eligible for numerous discounts for health-related products and services provided by a variety of retailers.
For those who suffer from PTSD or other mental illnesses, Each Mind Matters have a specific hotline dedicated for veterans who may need serious assistance or simply another ear to talk to. Their site, linked below, also has lots of resources for addressing mental health issues.