A number of public and private organizations provide financial aid and unique services to active-duty and veteran service members to help them pursue higher education and adapt back to civilian life. Many military members learn skills that are applicable outside of the military, including engineering, vehicle maintenance, and utilities and resource maintenance.

When leaving the military, it's important to take advantage of training, skills assessment testing, and certification opportunities that can be applied towards civilian licenses and designations. In the Education and Training Commands section of this guide, we direct you to the services within each branch of the military that can help you to make the most out of your military duties.

The purpose of this guide is to identify specific programs, based on your contribution to the U.S. armed forces, that will further your education. We will also look at how to get the most out of the services available to you.

From Enlistment to Enrollment

Today's military offers qualifying high school graduates the opportunity to gain academic and life experience while serving their country. To enlist in the military, you must either be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of the U.S. and be at least 17 years old. Some branches also require recruits to have either a high school diploma or GED. While this isn't mandatory in all branches, not doing so may limit your opportunities.

The GI Bill

The Servicemen's Readjustment Act, commonly referred to as the GI Bill of Rights, was enacted in 1944. Since its creation, multiple chapters have been added, providing active-duty service members and veterans to pursue more opportunities in higher education. Other chapters include the Montgomery GI Bill, the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, and Post 9/11. The bill's most recent expansion, the Post-9/11 GI Bill, provides more educational benefits to service members and veterans who have 90 or more days of active-duty on or after September 11th, 2001.

Added coverage for the Post-9/11 GI Bill includes a living allowance, money for books, and the ability to transfer unused education benefits to spouses and children. All honorably discharged service members, along with those who have been discharged due to a service-related disability, are eligible for GI benefits. College tuition assistance is one of the included benefits.

Since being implemented on August 1st, 2009, the Post-9/11 GI Bill has provided benefits to 773,000 veterans. The National Center for Education Statistics reported an increase of veteran and active-duty students after the release of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, most of which attended two-year and four-year programs. GI benefits are awarded on a sliding scale based on your length of service, as detailed below.

Length of Service Percentage of Maximum Benefit
36 Months or Longer 100%
30 Days of Continuous Service and Discharge Due to Service Related Disability 100%
Between 31 Months and 36 Months 90%
Between 24 Months and 30 Months 80%
Between 18 Months and 24 Months 70%
Between 12 Months and 18 Months 60%
Between 6 Months and 12 Months 50%
At Least 90 Days and Less Than 6 Months 40%

You can learn all about the specifics of Post-9/11 GI Bill distribution and enforcement in our military financial aid guide.

Program Directory

In addition to Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, each branch of the military has internal programs available to its veterans. Before diving into greater details on specific programs and opportunities, we've provided a quick-reference directory of some of the key programs for each branch and links to their homepages.

U.S. Army
U.S. Navy
U.S. Air Force
U.S. Marine Corps
National Guard
Coast Guard

Combining Service and Education

There are a range of academic options that active-duty and reserve soldiers, sailors, and airmen can take advantage of, including online programs, military academies, military sponsored community colleges, and regional and national universities.

The advantages of earning a degree while enlisted revolve around the total cost of your education. Active-duty service members can take advantage of up to $18,000 in tuition assistance, paid over four years. When combined with federal aid, state aid, and scholarships, there is a distinct possibility that the aid you receive will be enough to cover the bulk, if not all, of a four-year education.

The drawbacks to earning a degree while on active-duty involve the pursuit of excellence amidst the stressors of active service and the rigors of your academics. While the military prides itself on allotting time for service members to pursue a degree concurrently with service, earning one may not always be a practical affair.

Collegiate study can be incredibly time consuming, with mandatory class time and a suggested two hours of prep for every hour spent in class. And while you may want to strike a balance between active-duty service and education, your commitment to the military takes precedent. Active-duty service members always face the possibility of immediate deployment with little or no warning, and certainly without regard to your class schedule.

While most colleges make allowances for unexpected deployments, the sudden change can prove incredibly stressful. Military students should keep this in mind when determining how many credits to take per semester or the amount of coursework you expect you'll need to take to earn your degree.

Active Duty Education by Branch

The Army, Air Force, and Navy (including the Marine Corps) each offer service members the opportunity to earn college credits and, in some cases, degrees while serving. These programs are usually offered in partnership with non-military educational institutions and often come in the form of online coursework. Unlike the programs that inactive service members and veterans take, these programs are generally administered by the military branch themselves. We've identified some of the most common education portals available to active-duty service members:

Education for Discharged or Retired Servicemembers

If you were recently discharged or retired and are now ready to begin or complete your education, then there are some things you will need to do in order to ensure you are ready to take full advantage of your military status.

You should collect all military paperwork for the application process, which includes:

  • A valid civilian id
  • Your discharge papers
  • All documentation related to courses, certificates, and degrees earned while enlisted

The branch you have served under can provide much of this documentation. Be sure to communicate with the particular administrators within your branch well ahead of any application deadlines -- financial aid included. The school may require test scores, high school transcripts, recommendations, and writing samples.

Never underestimate the complexity of the application or transfer application process, especially when you need to coordinate multiple benefit programs, such as arranging your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, FAFSA application, and scholarship money. Many institutions have a veterans center that can help with any issues.

Specific Academic Programs

Next, we will survey a series of programs and requirements of the education process, which service members should be mindful of as they undertake their coursework.

DANTES

As part of the Department of Defense's commitment to assisting active-duty, reserve, and veteran members of the military achieve their goals, it has instituted the Defense Activity for Nontraditional Education Support (DANTES) program. In effect, DANTES allows students to obtain college and career training credits through testing. Such tests are intended to measure and provide credit for their knowledge acquired through military experience and training. These tests are administered on military bases and national testing facilities. While testing fees vary, funding is available for active-duty, National Guard, and reserve troops; see the links to funding eligibility charts under exam descriptions to learn more. DANTES programs are typically comprised of two types of tests that award credit:

  • DSST Exams: There are over 30 different DSST exams, all of which measure knowledge gained outside of a traditional classroom setting. Tests are divided into six categories: business, humanities, math, physical science, social science, and technology. Learn more about exam funding.
  • CLEP Exams: The CLEP (College Level Examination Program) was developed by the College Board to enable colleges and universities to measure a student's understanding of the coursework typically taken by first or second year students. Passing a CLEP examination means you can earn anywhere from 3 to 12 college credits, depending on how high you scored. The 33 CLEP tests fall into five areas: history and social sciences, composition and literature, science and math, and business and world languages. Learn more about exam funding.

Troops to Teachers

This program was developed by the Department of Defense as a way of encouraging and assisting qualified veterans to make the transition from the military to serving as a public school teacher. The program incorporates educational counseling and guidance on the steps needed to obtain certification; financial assistance; prep for Praxis Series tests, which are required for teacher certification; and job placement. In order to register for the program you need the following documented:

  • Military service information (including warzone information)
  • Current level of education
  • Teaching certification (if applicable)
  • Your K-12 employment history
  • The DANTES program has counselors available to aid active and transitioning members of the armed forces in navigating the DANTES system as they plan their education and career objectives. DANTES also offers its own brand of distance learning. Service members interested in distance learning opportunities are first advised to take the DANTES Self Assessment test in order to gauge their readiness for the requirements of a distance learning environment.

Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges Degree Network System

The SOC program meets the needs of service members and their families who would like to attend college but find it difficult due to the highly mobile nature of military service. The program was founded in 1972 and works closely with multiple higher education associations, the DOD, and active and reserve components of each branch of service to develop and enhance access to higher education.

The SOC system was divided into separate programs for each division of the military. As of January 1st, 2015 the DOD consolidated the various SOC branches into a single degree network system. The main purpose of the system is to ensure that any course taken through SOC is fully transferable, sparing students and their family members the hardship of lost credits due to frequent transfers. The consortium works closely with more than 1,700 schools, serving hundreds of thousands of military students.

American Council on Education

DANTES has formed a partnership with the American Council on Education (ACE) in order to ensure that active-duty and separated military service members can earn academic credit for the knowledge and training received during their service. ACE acts as an advocate on behalf of current and former service members by:

  • Acting as a point of contact with government agencies, including Congress, on matters of higher education
  • Working to keep colleges and universities informed of important public policy issues affecting higher education
  • Actively promoting innovation in the advancement of adult learning in general and for veterans in particular

ACE works in conjunction with the DOD's Joint Services Transcript program to coordinate and consolidate the efforts of each of the service branches to provide a record of veterans and active-duty service members training and experience. JST transcripts are accepted by 2,400 institutions, which is about 34% of all colleges. Universities and service members are advised to check with prospective schools before relying on JST transcripts for credit. The following are sample JST transcripts for each branch of the military:

College of the American Soldier

The College of the American Soldier provides two distinct education programs for active-duty Army soldiers, including reserves and National Guard members. The college operates in conjunction with more than two dozen higher education institutions to provide individualized academic tracks for enlisted service members and NCOs.

  • NCO Program: The NCO program is built on a base of civilian degrees that incorporate components essential to military career advancement. All credits earned in the program are completely transferable; credits earned and reported on JST transcripts are also accepted.
  • Enlisted Education Program: The Enlisted Education program is ideal for entry-level service members who have limited or no college background. It allows service members to complete an associate degree during their first enlistment. As with the NCO program, all credits are fully transferable among the more than two dozen participating schools. The Enlisted Education Program also participates in ACE sponsored Joint Services Transcripts.

Education and Training Commands by Branch

A major part of the military experience is a formal and informal education in technical skills. Education and Training Command services specific to each branch allow service members to actively pursue a specific vocational or practical military skill under that branch's unique tutelage. While this work does not necessarily carry over to formal class time or credits, it is a valuable resource for all members of the military who are eager to refine a service-based expertise.

Leveraging Military Experience and Service in College

As an active-duty or separated military service member, your place on a college campus is unique, given that most young college students have experienced little beyond their lives as students. Even in adult learning settings, your past or present military service will provide you with a singular perspective.

The training, discipline, and commitment that's essential to your service, combined with any foreign service you may have experienced, has exposed you to cultures and locales far removed from civilian life. These experiences can be communicated as insights and opinions your peers may never have considered, the sort of meaningful contribution welcomed throughout collegiate academics.

That being said, it is equally important to understand that when you attend classes, you are not in a military environment. The attitudes and behavior of your peers, sometimes much younger than you in both age and maturity, may differ from your own. While the serious, business-minded attitude developed during service is valuable, you should keep in mind that not everyone will appreciate or respond to a militaristic demeanor. Moderating your attitude can go a long way towards a more positive assimilation into an undergraduate or graduate classroom.

Campus life can offer you opportunities to put your leadership training and skills to good use. Social and civic student organizations can benefit from your example and experiences as a member of the armed forces.

Practically speaking, your experiences may also provide an edge in landing private sector internships, which must oftentimes be sought out with little help from your college or university. Such extracurricular pursuits can provide more career opportunities.

Financing Your Education

Aside from the Post-9/11 GI Bill, it's important to remember that veterans can also apply for financial aid. Reporting income can be a bit confusing at first for new civilians, but the resources that become available after successfully completing the FAFSA are worth it. Veterans may qualify for unsubsidized loans and pell grants. Veterans should also know that they are eligible to apply for many scholarships, some of which are specific to military members.

Service members should look for schools that are part of the Yellow Ribbon Program. Military members who apply to schools in this program receive additional funds without having to charge their GI Bill entitlement. This allows military students to afford programs that the Post-9/11 GI Bill may not fully cover. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs reports that about 1,770 universities and colleges are part of the Yellow Ribbon Program.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill's benefits are finite. You must request your benefits within 15 years of your discharge or you will lose them forever, and the bill only pays for 36 months of your education. Consult our guide that's dedicated entirely to the financial aid opportunities that all members of the military should consider.

Hear From the Experts

Interviews

Scroll through the interviews below to learn more about how veterans can attain their degrees after their service. Hear advice from people who’ve been there and those that have helped them along the way.

Table of Contents 1 Dr. Joseph Asbery - Senior Watch Officer at the Department of Homeland Security

Table of Contents

1 Dr. Joseph Asbery - Senior Watch Officer at the Department of Homeland Security

Stand back, research an institution in the greatest detail possible and choose wisely. Look at the overall college life at the institution, veteran support services, and utilize social media to reach out to other veterans or professors who are attending the university they are interested in.

By Dr. Joseph Asbery Senior Watch Officer at the Department of Homeland Security
Learn more about Dr. Joseph Asbery

Can you tell us about your military background and your path toward attending college?

I enlisted into the Army National Guard in 1990 and was later commissioned via ROTC in the Quartermaster Corps as a Second Lieutenant (2LT) in 1993. I served in various leadership and staff assignments in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East (Iraq and Qatar). While I was on active duty, I was preoccupied with my military career and I did not focus on my “civilian education” as seriously. It wasn't until I retired in 2010 that I could focus on education. Shortly after I left the Army, I was hired by the Department Of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), where I am currently employed. Despite having the perfect skill set for this position, I wanted to know more about emergency management. It was then I decided to attend the Metropolitan College of New York, because the institution offered a master in public administration - disaster and emergency management. Moreover, the school was a short walk from my job-site. Upon completion of my MPA I used my remaining GI Bill benefits to attend Saint John Fisher College and earned a doctoral degree in executive leadership.

What was the driving force behind your return to school after serving in the military?

The driving force in me was to become a better Joseph Asbery once I left the Army. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from my combat tours, as well as dealing with several toxic leaders towards the end of my military career. Emotionally, I wasn't in a good place and nearly became another veteran suicide statistic. After several months of therapy and a lot introspective thought, I was back on track. Once I left the Army in 201, I was determined to rebuild myself. Moreover, landing a federal job just 10 days after I left the Army was a good start.

Entering FEMA, despite having the perfect skill set for the position, I wanted to know more about emergency management, so as I attended a college that complimented my new profession. My initial goal was to just to earn a master's degree but my brother, Dr. David Asbery, graduated with his doctoral degree. Rather than getting a second masters degree with the remainder of my GI Bill, I decided to pursue a doctoral degree too. Also, I could not let my brother pass me up.

What are the three most important attributes or characteristics a veteran should consider when selecting a university?

  • The institution's reputation. Is the university or college accredited? Predatory institutions thrive of the perceived ignorance of veterans. A school claiming to be “military friendly” may not be as friendly as you think. Moreover, veterans should do research and pick an institution that has a challenging curriculum and is not just a “degree mill.” Institutions target veterans because of the lucrative GI Bill benefit -- use it wisely.
  • Look for institutions that have veteran support elements on the campus. As a professor, I have had the opportunity to travel to other colleges in NYC. As a veteran myself, it was a good feeling to walk into a dedicated veteran student lounge with dedicated veteran services on campus. It was almost like a sanctuary.
  • A veteran should look at the success rate of the institutions job placement program and explore any entrepreneur programs that may be offered. Many veterans entering college institutions are either pursuing new careers in a high-paying field or becoming business owners or entrepreneurs. The driving force for going to school is to help one build a better life post-military.

How important is a university's sense of community for veterans when deciding on a college?

A university with a solid sense of community can only help a returning service member in completing their studies and graduating. In the four years I have been teaching at my institution, all of the veteran students in my curriculum have graduated or are on track to finish their studies. A veteran's shared experience goes a long way. Moreover, it is an excellent networking opportunity for them to meet other veterans and non-veterans.

How does the GI Bill influence a veteran or service member's choice to pursue a higher education?

The GI Bill gives veterans an opportunity to possibly attend just about any VA-certified higher education or trade institution across the board. Of all the benefits I was authorized to receive, the Post-9/11 GI bill was the best. This benefit enhanced my life forever.

What advice would you give students who don't believe they can attend college as a veteran?

I tell potential students to visit a campus and see it for themselves. Moreover, find a campus that has a robust veteran outreach program. Furthermore, a few encouraging words can help. In my case, I tell veterans who are on the fence about going back to school that this benefit of ours is something that doesn't come for everyone. I tell them they have one life to live and what they do will determine a good portion of their lives. I also ask them to look within themselves to find that same spark they had when they entered the military and use it to start their academic journey.

What advice would you give to a prospective veteran student who is in the first stages of their college search?

Stand back, research an institution in the greatest detail possible and choose wisely. Look at the overall college life at the institution, veteran support services, and utilize social media to reach out to other veterans or professors who are attending the university they are interested in.

What are some of the ways family and friends can support student veterans during their time of transition?

Most veterans will need their family and friends as support during their academic journey. In my case, I almost quit my doctoral studies when I was nearly completed. I was so tired and my patience meter was on empty. However, I had my squad of family (specifically my brother), friends, and cohorts who I could go and talk to. In the midnight hour, that was a godsend. Specifically, I took a few hours away from studies to rest my mind and talked with my brother. Since he went through the same experience, he put things into perspective with respect to the writing my dissertation.

What are some struggles you faced when transitioning into school? How were you able to overcome them?

At the time, I had just left the Army and was dealing with severe PTSD. I had to learn to have patience. I had to be a little more compassionate and diplomatic towards non-veteran students and people around me. Specifically, not being ridged about my expectations that I was accustomed to while in the Army. Moreover, as a former officer, I had to learn that I did not have general or direct authority anymore and things that I wanted to happen would happen in due time.

What beneficial internal programs did you take advantage of? How did they affect your life?

My institution did not have a specific program. However, the networking opportunity at an institution is priceless. I have had the opportunity to network with many professional business owners and entrepreneurs over the past eight years. This opportunity gave me the tools to turn my hobby of photography into a business that I am currently growing. Moreover, there are other entrepreneur programs that veterans have access to such as university-sponsored outreach programs similar to the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans. Other programs include veteran local business development centers and the U.S. Small Business Administration. All of these entities anyone can find, but a college may have a relationship with these organizations, making it easier for prospective veterans who want to build a business.

About Dr. Joseph Asbery

Senior Watch Officer at the Department of Homeland Security Dr. Joseph Asbery is a native New Yorker who grew up in Manhattan and later the Bronx. In 1990, Joseph joined the Army National Guard and continued his education by attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Upon graduation in 1993 with a BA in police science, Joseph was commissioned into the Regular Army as a Logistics Officer and was assigned to the United States Army European Command Southern European Task Force in Vicenza, Italy, and later in Hanau, Germany, where he served multiple tours a Platoon Leader and Executive Officer from 1994 through 1997. In 1997, he was reassigned to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, where he commanded the 557th Maintenance Company. Through his leadership, he teamed with various base organizations where he achieved excellence in maintenance and repair of the National Training Center's prepositioned Brigade equipment set by winning the coveted Department of The Army's Phoenix Superior Unit Maintenance Award in 2000. He also won the prestigious Department of Defense Supply Excellence Award for exceptional logistics support to the Fort Irwin community. As Company Commander, Major Asbery also lead the installation in maintaining 100% retention of soldiers and of soldiers recruited for four consecutive quarters. From 2000 to 2002, Joseph was assigned to the Company B, 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), United States Army Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for a three-man Special Forces Civil Affairs Team. Duty entailed conflict assessment, whole-of-government planning, and a full range of political military activities when forward deployed. In 2003, he deployed with the HQ United States Central Command in support of current operations in the Middle East. Joseph played a significant role in the physical re-establishment of the Central Command's forward presence in Qatar to provide command and control for current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a Non-combat Arms Officer, he quickly mastered the multifaceted and complex tasks demanded of a Ground Operations Officer by developing the ground operations debrief, the primary document used to provide comprehensive, insightful input.

2 Ralph Russo - Director, Tulane University School of Professional Advancement Applied Computing Program

Veterans should consider themselves first before selecting a university. Finding the right university and degree program is about more than potential job opportunities and taking courses consistent with training and experience.

By Ralph Russo Director of Tulane University's School of Professional Advancement Cybersecurity Management Program
Learn more about Ralph Russo

Can you tell us about your experience with the military and how that relates to an academic setting?

I have not served in the military. However, I have had the pleasure of teaching and working alongside many veterans in industry, in academia, and in law enforcement. I can confidently say that the veterans I have interacted with at the university brought a high degree of curiosity, interaction, and respect for ideas to the classroom. Overall, I have found that veterans' sense of responsibility to the learning process has been high and it has truly been my pleasure to work with our servicemen and women in the classroom and elsewhere. As the director of Tulane SoPA's applied computing programs, I have also had the pleasure of hiring veterans as faculty, where they have proven to be popular and effective instructors.

What do you notice to be the driving force behind veterans pursuing an education after service?

In my conversations with veterans at Tulane over the years, I've gleaned that military service helped them develop a better understanding of who they are and brought awareness of their capabilities. In these cases, students sought an education that allowed them to provide value around this military-forged, more mature sense of themselves. This personal growth acts as a source of confidence and a motivator for veterans to seek an education that is commensurate with delivering their talents to society.

What are the three most important attributes or characteristics a veteran should consider when selecting a university?

Outside of traditional student considerations around quality, reputation, programs, academics, environment, academic support, amenities, location, and technology, veterans should consider the following institution characteristics specifically related to their experience:

Process/Experience/Flexibility:

Does the university have significant, dedicated staff to assist veterans? Are there robust counseling and career services available? For example, Tulane University has multiple veteran liaisons and counselors across university schools, and each is completely accessible through the website, through email, and by posted phone number.

Are processes/systems/forms in place that are mature and accessible (online) to navigate the administrative requirements of the G.I. Bill and guide veterans? Does the university participate in relevant veterans' programs, such as Yellow Ribbon Program? Are the program courses offered flexible enough to fit the student veteran's lifestyle?

History/Welcome:

Does the institution have a long-standing relationship with the military and veterans? This may be highly impactful on the day-to-day experience a veteran will find at the university.
For example, the Tulane ROTC was established in 1947, and it is very much the norm to encounter ROTC personnel throughout the campus in uniform. Additionally, the City of New Orleans and Greater New Orleans area have traditionally been welcoming and “home” to veterans. In fact, 8% of the population of Louisiana are veterans, 79% of those have served in wartime, and 36% have served in the Gulf War era. These type of environments allow the adjustment to University life to be smoother.

Current university program veteran presence:

Does the program the veteran is interested in have instructors who have served? Students should research the faculty who will be teaching them - including reading instructor's bios where posted. For example, the Tulane SoPA Applied Computing Faculty is comprised of a large percentage of veterans and current military leaders. These instructors are uniquely positioned to be mentors and resources for students who are veterans.

Are there a large number of student veterans attending the university and are they fully participatory in university groups, activities and student leadership? Generally, universities that have a large number of veterans enrolled are accustomed to supporting veteran students and meeting their specific needs.

How important is a university's sense of community to veterans when deciding on a college?

A university's sense of community is very important to veterans. Most veterans have been steeped in esprit de corps, and the benefits of accomplishing goals as part of a larger whole. Universities that are able to offer an environment in which veterans are welcomed and encouraged to bring their talents to teams and to the larger community would be a familiar and comfortable environment for veterans. I would encourage veterans to speak to existing military personnel (ROTC, etc.), student veterans, and instructor veterans to make the best choice for their education.

How do financial aid opportunities, such as the GI Bill, influence a veteran or service member's choice to pursue a higher education?

Support through the GI Bill continues to be a critical enabling factor for veterans to pursue their goals. Many new businesses started by veterans since World War II, as well as the many veterans who have risen to the top of their fields, are the direct result of the education enabled by veteran aid. As a result, American's investment in our troops has paid off handsomely for the US by any measure.

Veterans: find a university that will help you map your veteran's benefit to your academic goals with clarity.

What advice would you give students who don't believe they can attend college as a veteran?

I would advise students who do not believe they can attend college as a veteran that perhaps they are looking at the wrong universities or programs for their educational needs and comfort. “Fit” is an important part of succeeding in higher education, and there are meaningful differences between institutions. I would further advise veterans to engage around these differences to ensure they will feel supported, welcomed, and part of something bigger.

For those students who aren't even looking at higher education because they lack the confidence, I would advise them to consider the challenges that they have already overcome, and the responsibilities they have already been entrusted with through service and look again.
I would also remind them that they have proven ability to meet challenges, and personal responsibility and maturity gained from service. Lastly, I would advise veterans that whatever experience they might have had with schooling when they were younger no longer applies, as academics have changed, and so have they.

What advice would you give to a prospective veteran student who is in the first stages of their college search?

Veterans should consider themselves first before selecting a university. Finding the right university and degree program is about more than potential job opportunities and taking courses consistent with training and experience. Ultimately, veterans have learned life lessons far beyond their specific assignments in the military and offer value in ways that are harder to articulate than a job title. I would recommend that a veteran seek out a university program and field that they would want to be reading and writing about at the end of a busy day because it is a passion -- beyond the grade and the degree.

Students should research academic institutions that are fine tuned to meet their core, baseline interests. The challenge then becomes to locate the academic institution in which a veteran can feel comfortable, welcome, and offers the program/course of study that syncs with their passion. For example, Tulane University's SoPA cybersecurity and homeland security programs are particularly popular with veterans. During their service, veterans in these programs have discovered their technical and strategic skills, and they desire to continue service through protection. These programs offer the opportunity to do this alongside veterans and others with similar passions.

What are some of the ways family and friends can support student veterans during their time of transition?

Family and friends are a core part of a veteran's support network. Since family and friends have supported these folks through challenges writ large, their influence on veterans is significant.
Therefore, it is highly likely that veterans would use this support network in their discovery process and will be significantly impacted by their input. In these cases, family and friends could provide help with research (online, phone calls, emails), completing applications and, perhaps most importantly, with assistance in the form of talking things through.

For veterans who prefer to consider things themselves, family and friends could provide basic encouragement, unqualified support of the veteran's chosen direction, and space for a veteran to consider their true passion and its alignment with education.

Finally, family and friends who have not served may have developed personal networks in the community that a military veteran might not have been able to. Family and friends can offer connection to these informal networks for conversations with students, faculty, and staff of universities around education planning.

What are some struggles you see veterans face when transitioning into school? How are they able to overcome them?

Veterans come from a hardline structure that the military provides, where tasks are regimented and closely choreographed to completion. Often, university assignments come with parameters and a due date, but rely on a student's capacity for self-direction and personal motivation to complete. In these cases, this fundamental difference in approach and follow-through creates a significant challenge to veterans.

I have seen veterans overcome these challenges through leveraging of new relationships and resources to keep on track. Ofttimes these could be other veterans enrolled in courses as part of a cohort.

For example, in a course I recently taught, several veterans quickly connected and communicated around assignments and assessments. By reaching out to those in class with a shared background, they formed an impromptu support structure. This structure was extremely effective in finding success in the class though study sessions, discussions around research, and approach to assignments.

For these reasons, finding a university with a long-standing relationship with the military, that has significant number of students and faculty/mentors who are veterans, and has a culture that welcomes veterans of all kinds is important.

About Ralph Russo

Director of Tulane University's School of Professional Advancement Cybersecurity Management Program Ralph Russo is the director of the Tulane University School of Professional Advancement applied computing program, where he is focused on keeping learning delivery and the applied computing curriculum on pace with cutting-edge technology, security, and industry advancement. Mr. Russo also holds the title of professor of practice. He created and delivered the first graduate and undergraduate cybersecurity courses at Tulane in 2011, and has taught in both the homeland security and applied computing programs. Mr. Russo is a nationally-recognized subject matter expert on technology in the homeland security and public safety domains. He has served in director-level leadership positions for technology/systems integration companies for over 15 years. He has also consulted for multiple federal, state, and local jurisdictions to successfully guide the development, deployment, and adoption of IT systems for security and public safety. Mr. Russo retired from the NYPD in 2005. His 20+ year career included leadership positions in a wide array of investigative and field assignments. Of note, Mr. Russo served as the commanding officer of an Organized Crime Control HIDTA Task Force of Local/State/Federal law enforcement. He also served as a commanding officer at NYPD Intelligence RIC/Watch, where he designed, managed, and implemented agency-wide law enforcement and homeland security systems for tracking confidential informants, search warrants and counterterrorism leads - including the NYC Terrorism Hotline (888-NYC-SAFE). As an entrepreneur, he has co-owned two startup technology firms. These small businesses focused on delivering secure solutions to businesses handling personal data, and on creating, marketing, and delivering software for police officers seeking to advance their careers.

3 Dr. Robert Mallin - University Provost at American University of Antigua College of Medicine (AUA)

Military service is a wake-up call with regard to the importance of training and education. Many veterans recognize that they will need more education to reach their goals and take a no-nonsense, mature view of how that education is delivered, and what it can offer.

By Dr. Robert Mallin University Provost at American University of Antigua College of Medicine (AUA)
Learn more about Dr. Robert Mallin

Can you tell us about your experience working with the military and how that relates to a university setting?

I was a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman from 1969-1973. In addition to field medical training with the U.S. Marines, I was a surgical technician assisting surgeons in the operating theater. Since this was during some of the most aggressive fighting in Vietnam, I had the privilege of taking care of many young, wounded soldiers and sailors. Being only 20 years old myself in 1969, it was an opportunity to grow up fast. I joined the military as essentially an adolescent, and left much more mature than when I entered.

What do you notice to be the driving force behind veterans pursuing an education after service?

Military service is a wake-up call with regard to the importance of training and education. Many veterans recognize that they will need more education to reach their goals and take a no-nonsense, mature view of how that education is delivered, and what it can offer.

What are the three most important attributes or characteristics a veteran should consider when selecting a university?

By the time they get out of the service, most veterans are adult learners. Consequently, they should be looking for a college that understands the needs of adult learners, a school that is experienced with veteran students, and one that can support the adult veteran and their family.

How important is a university's sense of community to veterans when deciding on a college?

Military experience teaches service members to appreciate teamwork, a sense of purpose, and service. These are the sort of qualities they should look for in an institution of higher learning.

How does financial aid opportunities, such as the GI Bill, influence a veteran or service member's choice to pursue a higher education?

The GI Bill was an important inducement for me to return to college and medical school. Being from a working-class family, I needed both that and the availability of school loans to finance my medical education.

What advice would you give students who don't believe they can attend college as a veteran?

I have met very few military service members who could not excel in a college education. The maturity, sense of purpose, determination, and work ethic that one learns as a result of military service can be used to make any veteran successful in their educational pursuits. At American University of Antigua College of Medicine, we welcome veterans and encourage their pursuit of the dream of becoming successful physicians.

What advice would you give to a prospective veteran student who is in the first stages of their college search?

Most important is to recognize that there is assistance out there for our veterans. A simple web search will reveal, for example, that there are 8 states that provide free tuition for veterans, the VA has a great deal of information on veteran educational benefits. Find out if the colleges you are interested in have experience with veteran students. If they do, the transition will be much easier.

What are some of the ways family and friends can support student veterans during their time of transition?

Family and social support is crucial for our veterans, especially those returning from overseas assignments in areas of combat. Again, the VA is a great place to find out about how to support veterans reintegration into civilian life.

What are some struggles you see veterans face when transitioning into school? How are they able to overcome them?

When entering undergraduate institutions, veterans are faced with very different expectations than other students. Veterans are typically more mature, and often driven by clear plans for their education and career goals. It is sometimes difficult for them to integrate into the typical college social scene. Seeking out other veterans and mature students can often help in that integration.

What beneficial internal military programs do you see taken advantage of most often? How do they impact a veteran's education?

When I was in active duty, I took several “mail order” college courses which boosted my confidence in being able to handle college-level material. This resulted in earning credits that transferred to my college of choice. Nowadays, active-duty personnel can often take online courses and may take courses on college campuses when they are close enough to their duty station. I think this helps tremendously with building confidence and preparing them for full-time college work.

About Dr. Robert Mallin

University Provost at American University of Antigua College of Medicine (AUA) Dr. Robert Mallin is the university provost at American University of Antigua College of Medicine (AUA), a Caribbean medical school dedicated to creating future generations of physicians that serve the communities they represent. Dr. Mallin graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in 1981 and finished a residency in family medicine at the same institution in 1984. He was a tenured professor at the Medical University of South Carolina and a staff physician in hospitals throughout South Carolina. He has been the recipient of the Teacher of the Year Trident/MUSC Family Medicine Residency award, Golden Oyster Teaching Award MUSC/Trident Family Medicine Residency Program, Navy Achievement Medal for lifesaving medical services rendered to an injured sailor, and numerous Teacher of the Month awards.

4 Andy Swapp - Director of Wind Energy Technology at Mesalands Community College

Being a veteran gives you a clear path to get things done and an education is one that should be very clear. School is not just for the ultra-smart, school is for those who know how to work hard and achieve.

By Andy Swapp Director of Wind Energy Technology at Mesalands Community College
Learn more about Andy Swapp

Can you tell us about your military background and your path toward attending college?

I always knew I would go in the military because it has been something my family has done for generations. I started off with my first duty station at Fort Sherman in Panama. The 3rd of the 7th special forces put on a jungle jump school on Ft. Sherman and I was fortunate enough to attend. From Panama, I was assigned to 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Then came the 297th Military Intelligence Unit and on to Fort Ord in California where I was part of the 1st of the 9th Infantry Regiment (the Manchus) of the 7th Infantry Division. I was then reassigned to recruiting duty where I was eventually medically retired. I attended college courses as I could while on active duty. With multiple deployments is was difficult to keep a regular college schedule, but time was available to get a semester in every once in a while. I did not always see the importance of college as a youth, but when I would see officers that were college graduates come and take charge of a 33-man platoon and lead troops from the start of their career, I began to see the weight and importance of a college education.

What was the driving force behind your return to school after serving in the military?

The driving force for me to return to school was a desire to learn. While on a patrol in Panama City, we were coming out of a shanty town and there was a little girl playing in a sewer-infested drainage ditch. As we crossed over a foot bridge, she picked up a saucepan full of ditch water and poured it into her mouth then stood there like a pretty statue and spewed a little stream of water out. I have never felt such gratitude in my life and I hoped that somehow our actions in Panama would make her life so much better. The main thought that went through my head was, “What would a little education do for her?” From that point on, I was driven to become an educator.

What are the three most important attributes or characteristics a veteran should consider when selecting a university?

  1. Does that university teach what you want to major in?
  2. Is there a strong veteran presents there? This might be a veteran's advisor in admissions or the registrar's office, a veteran's club that brings you together on campus so you can network and feel comfortable among like-minded people, etc.
  3. A university needs to have a good name and a reputation of rigor and excellent placement of its graduates.

How important is a university's sense of community for veterans when deciding on a college?

The community of veterans is pretty important to the new person coming into the world of education. They can help new students with paperwork and scheduling, which is invaluable.

How does the GI Bill influence a veteran or service member's choice to pursue a higher education?

The GI Bill opens the door for many veterans who otherwise would not be able to afford the expenses involved in higher education.

What advice would you give students who don't believe they can attend college as a veteran?

Choose a school that you can afford if cost is a barrier. If you believe that you aren't smart enough because you are just an infantryman or other crawl-in-the-mud MOS, just remember that those schools exist under the flag that you own a part of. Being a veteran gives you a clear path to get things done and an education is one that should be very clear. Do not cross bridges that are not there. School is not just for the ultra-smart, school is for those who know how to work hard and achieve. You are all of that!

There are tests that will help you start at the appropriate level that you need to start your educational journey. I took every remedial and introductory math class there was to take before I could get into college-level algebra. I used the tutoring center daily. Being a veteran, I knew how to put in the long hours and persevere. College is not easy, but veterans know how to deal with that so don't be afraid to fail. Most likely, you will succeed.

What advice would you give to a prospective veteran student who is in the first stages of their college search?

Find colleges that have a major that fits what you most want to do. Do not pick something that sounds like it will make the most money or would be good in any economy, pick something you really want to do and follow your dream. Visit the college in-person and get to know people in the veteran's office and find out what they are like. Meet with professors and see how much they care and how into teaching they are.

What are some of the ways family and friends can support student veterans during their time of transition?

If family will treat school like a long deployment, it will help because when your veteran goes to school, they are in school day and night. If not actually in class, they are in the library or doing homework at home. Give them a quiet place to study where interruptions are minimal. Be understanding if they cannot attend normal functions because papers are due the next day. Be encouraging and curios. Dinner time is a great time to ask how their studies are going. They do have to eat and dinner is time to sit and socialize with the family and catch up on things.

What are some struggles you faced when transitioning into school?

I went from being one of the most important people on the battlefield to being the dumb old guy that asked way too many questions. The kids just out of high school knew all the formulas and answers and I knew very little. How were you able to overcome them? I was able to recruit help by forming study groups and taking charge of discussions that included the smart kid. I always respected abilities and realizing that I had as much ability as the next guy, just not the earlier opportunity to learn the immediate subject, made a big difference. We are all on different learning levels even in the same class in the same degree plan.

What beneficial internal programs did you take advantage of? How did they affect your life?

I took great advantage of tutoring. Every chance I got, I would sit down with a tutor. One day the tutor asked me if I wanted to join the honors society. I laughed and said "No, that is just for those with a high GPA." She laughed and said "Well yes!" I did not realize that my GPA had qualified for an honors program.

I also participated in counseling with the VA. I thought that tutoring was getting me through school, when actually it was earning the highest GPA I ever had. The counseling was fantastic and focusing. I not only survived school, but I thrived on it. For the first time in my life, I enjoyed school.

About Andy Swapp

Director of Wind Energy Technology at Mesalands Community College Andy Swapp is a retired United States Army Infantry Sergeant and the current director of wind energy technology at Mesalands Community College. While serving in the U.S. Army, he attended Jump School, the Sabalauski Air Assault School, and completed the Rappel Master course. Andy was also an instructor in urban combat and a master fitness trainer at the Jungle Operations Training Center in Panama. After many deployments, Andy was medically retired. His uniform hangs in the closet with two meritorious service medals among other commendations, but the one above them all is the combat infantryman's badge. Andy joined Mesalands Community College in 2015 as director of wind energy technology. He earned a bachelor of science in technology and engineering education, as well as a master's degree in engineering and technology. He has worked summers as a wind farm consultant and construction worker building commercial-scale wind farms. He has been published in the tech directions journal and has authored a book titled “The Education Animal.”

5 Wil Williamson - Director of Veterans Initiatives for Prudential Financial

I would advise a veteran to visit a college campus and engage with other student veterans who are currently attending that school. You will be able to feel, in an academic setting, the camaraderie once experienced in the military.

By Wil Williamson Director of Veterans Initiatives for Prudential Financial
Learn more about Wil Williamson

Can you tell us about your military background and your path to attending college?

I joined the United States Marine Corps at age 17 after completing a semester of college. During my military career, I took college courses only sporadically due to the demanding operational requirements of my job. I have always been a non-traditional student, balancing my career and academics simultaneously.

What are the three most important attributes or characteristics a veteran should consider when selecting a university experience and why?

  • Reputation - It is important to consider the university's academic reputation, employer outreach, and support system for veterans.
  • Veteran Support - Look for a university with a veteran's affairs office on campus. At Rutgers, there is an Office of Veteran and Military Programs and Services. Ann Treadaway and her superior leadership team support student veterans with a variety of programs.
  • Diversity - Consider a university that supports and encourages diversity and inclusion. Rutgers University is the most diverse academic institution I have attended in my entire academic career, and that was important to me.

How important is a university's sense of community for veterans when deciding on a college?

A sense of community is extremely important, both on- and off-campus. Select a university with community involvement opportunities and strategic partners to strengthen the outreach.

How does the GI Bill influence a veteran or service members higher education decisions?

The GI Bill is extremely influential as it helps to alleviate the financial burden associated with attending college. A veteran's affairs office can assist in this regard as well, by helping to find and interpret the applicable programs available.

What advice would you give students who don't believe they can attend college as a veteran?

I would advise a veteran to visit a college campus like Rutgers and engage with other student veterans who are currently attending that school. You will be able to feel, in an academic setting, the camaraderie once experienced in the military.

What advice would you give to a student who is a veteran and considering attending college and is in the first stages of the college search?

I would recommend assessing the college's student veteran outreach, and the support that is available to this unique population. In addition, I would have the university evaluate your military experience. Ask if any of the experience/education translates into college credits.

What are some of the ways family and friends can support student veterans during this time of transition?

Family and friends need to support the veteran as they would any student entering academia for the first time. There will be many long nights of studying and completing homework assignments. However, the end result will be beneficial. As veterans, we have served to help others, and this is a unique opportunity to invest in our own human capital.

About Wil Williamson

Director of Veterans Initiatives for Prudential Financial Wil Williamson is a retired United States Marine and the current Director of Veterans Initiatives for Prudential Financial. While serving in the Marine Corps, he attended the School of Infantry, Communications and Electronics School, and Recruiter's School. During his 21 years of service, he deployed to several countries including Haiti and Somalia, where he assisted in humanitarian efforts. Wil received the Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Recruiting Ribbon, and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. Wil joined Prudential Financial in 2015 and worked in Staffing Organization and Diversity Recruiting for one year before moving into his current role in Veterans Initiatives. He is earning a bachelor of science in Labor Studies and Employment Relations from the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations in New Brunswick, N.J.

6 Dr. Laura Douglass - Dean of Professional Studies at Endicott College

Veteran and military students are strong, resilient leaders who bring real world experience to the classroom.

By Dr. Laura Douglass Dean of Professional Studies at Endicott College
Learn more about Dr. Laura Douglass

Can you tell us about your background working with veterans who are attending college?

I started working with veterans at Endicott College in 2012. We had several students who had to stop classes due to feeling suicidal. These were my brightest, funniest, and most engaged students – but they were struggling. Veterans Affairs reported in 2014 that the rate of suicide among male veterans was 37 per 100,000. This number has slowly gone up over the years. Both of my grandfathers served in the military, and they both committed suicide. With my brother and father also being veterans, I felt genuinely dedicated to making a difference. Endicott College has a long tradition of serving veterans and military students and I knew there was something more that we could do to serve our students and help support their transition to civilian life.

In 2014, Endicott College brought the Veterans Initiative Towards Academic Leadership to campus. This project coordinates VA services for Endicott College veterans – social work, academic support, and peer tutoring. In 2015, we founded a veterans club to bring more community to this group of students; they became a chapter of the Student Veterans of America in 2016. We also began a VA work study in 2016 as a way to integrate more opportunities for our veteran students to earn money while being full-time students. Additionally, this will be the second year we run a 3 credit class that helps military students translate their military leadership skills to the academic setting.

Dr. Wylie, the President of Endicott College, was serving veterans long before I got to the college. This tradition of serving military and veteran students is shown through Professor at Sea programs, classes at the Coast Guard stations in SW Harbor and Boston's North end, as well as regular classes at the Military Education Processing Station (MEPS) building in Boston. I've been honored to continue these programs through the Van Loan School at Endicott, and to build on them by adding additional academic support.

A big part of our continued success is our partner, Kristine Babcock at North Shore Community College. Every year she spends at least an hour with me, letting us know where our school can go next to serve veterans. Additionally, we are active members in the North Shore Veterans Collaborative, a local group dedicated to serving military families in the area. I'm alert to ideas and concerns that we hear at these meetings and I'm ready to implement as many good ideas as possible.

What are the three most important attributes a veteran should consider when selecting an undergraduate university experience and why?

1. Academic Programming. The school needs to have relevant academic programs that align with student interests. The degree options need to match the student's area of interest and propel them towards careers that will make life meaningful. Understanding how the academic program supports your career goals is significant. If students would benefit from a supported transition into a civilian career, they should choose a school like Endicott that provides life-long career support, help with resume writing, and has a veterans networking event at the annual career fair. Students should think about whether they want a school that is large, or whether they would thrive in a small program like Endicott College/Van Loan School where they receive personal attention, tutoring, and support.

Veterans should chose a program where they feel comfortable stating any concerns they may have; where they will be challenged, but also supported.

2. Advising and Support. There are a lot of issues that come up for veteran students in college. One of my students shared, “I just got back from five years in Afghanistan and you wanted me to write a 5-page paper. After finishing my senior thesis, 150 pages, I realize that's not much – but at the time I needed the Writing Center and professor encouragement to even approach that first paper.” Faculty support is central for every student completing their degree.

Veterans should ask, will my Joint Service Transcripts be accepted as credits? Is there peer mentoring or a veterans club on campus? If they are active duty military students, it is important that they not be penalized for being called to active duty; who can help them process these claims? It's easier if the school has a one-stop-shop advisor or veterans center who can help the student access all the things they need including withdrawing from a class, speaking up to a professor, or postponing their degree due to active military service.

3. Ability for the school to process Tuition Assistance and GI Benefits. Veterans are often using Post 9-11 GI Benefits, and this includes a housing stipend. The school they choose needs to be efficient at processing these benefits. If the benefits aren't processed, the student could lose housing dollars and that is extremely stressful. Everyone wants the money they are depending on to be predictable. They should call the certifying official at the school and make sure they are accessible and pleasant to work with.

How important is a university's sense of community for veterans when deciding on a college?

A sense of community is essential for all students, but particularly for veteran students. The military is a tight group of mission-driven individuals who are committed to seeing projects through together. We've had students who literally order books for the entire class so they can get good rates for everyone or pick up a student who is having a hard time getting to class. Community matters to these individuals, many of whom are natural leaders and exceptionally service driven. Figuring out how one can contribute to a school is central to these students finding a sense of place.

Combat veterans may need an opportunity to connect with other combat veterans. In a school environment, they are in class with civilians, non-combat veterans, and active military; this can be extremely stressful to combat veterans. Combat veterans are used to following orders and not speaking their minds freely – ideas from their peers that are wrong, incomplete, or still forming can be extremely triggering because in combat zones, wrong information leads to death. In higher education, exploration of ideas is encouraged and mistakes are rarely that costly. Being able to speak to each other, their advisor, and faculty about their issues is central to continuing their education.

In 2016, Dr. Wylie and the ROTC of Endicott College commemorated a permanent tribute to those who serve with a sculpture that overlooks the ponds of Endicott. The five military branches and first responders are each represented. Permanent memorials like this send a message to veterans and military students that they are appreciated; we are aware that the privilege of learning rests on the sacrifices they and their families make.

How have you seen the GI Bill influence a veteran or service member's higher education decisions?

The GI Bill is a huge factor in many students being able to attend school. It can determine how many years of schooling they have, their housing allowance, and whether they have to work full-time while they're in school. For veterans without a civilian career lined up, they may go to school because it is the most affordable solution for them. In these instances, it is central to inspire students to understand why they are in school, and how to thrive in an educational environment.

Endicott College has a reduced rate for active military students who receive Tuition Assistance through their branch of service. This means that while they are in the service they don't have to pay for tuition. We've been working with the National Guard and Coast Guard to get students enrolled in programs as enlisted soldiers. If they follow this advice, not only do they advance in rank within their service, but they can transfer their GI Benefits to their partner, or children - that's a huge benefit!

We've seen many students use Voc Rehab benefits to complete graduate education as well. This benefit pays for books, computers, and other things individuals need to meet their career goals. Students need to work with the VA to come up with a solid career plan that is approved for full funding. Endicott students have the added advantage of working with our robust Career Center. The Dean, Eric Hall, has organized trainings throughout the year that can help students make the career connections they need to succeed.

What advice would you give students who don't believe they can attend college as a veteran?

Students who are uncertain should try to aim for a small school where they will get specialized attention. We have classes at the MEPS building in downtown Boston for veteran students, which allows students an opportunity to see if they are a good fit for college, with the safety of being in class with other veterans. They can speak freely, and develop a strong sense of community that enables them to succeed. This building also has security, so for students returning from combat, these classes can help them focus on learning.

Veteran and military students are strong, resilient leaders who bring real world experience to the classroom. I've been in International Conflicts classes where every single student had been to either Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, or Somalia. This makes for extremely interesting and robust conversations. The single biggest mistake students make in returning to college is thinking they can go it alone. Ask for an extension from your faculty, ask for help understanding a problem, and speak up when you feel a peer is off base. The college experience is about sharing the whole of who you are -- find a community where who you are as a person is encouraged and uplifted.

Another myth is that those who felt called to serve did so because they were not naturally good students. We just haven't seen this. These students are disciplined leaders who truly desire to transition back into civilian life. The change from soldier to civilian is not an easy one because the cultural anchors are all different. College can be the place where self-exploration happens so these veterans can truly understand the complex gifts they have to offer.

What advice would you give to a student who is a veteran and considering attending college and is in the first stages of the college search?

Call an academic advisor from an accredited, non-profit school. Our advisors will help you find a match that is right for you. If we aren't a good fit, maybe U Mass Lowell is. Good schools are dedicated to education and to helping each student succeed, no matter where they decide to go to school.

Before you meet with your advisor, think about what is most important to you. College is a time for self-exploration. Some veterans think they need to know exactly what they want to do, but it's natural to change course in an undergraduate degree. The more classes you take, the more you realize what is satisfying to you. This will direct your choice of classes, degree, and career pursuits.

What are some common difficulties Veterans face as they enter college? What are some tactics you've seen help them overcome these problems?

Veteran students really dislike being looked at as in need of support. We recently ran a student lecture series that we called “Student Support Nights” and the President of the Veterans Club, Jason Donovan, immediately renamed them “Student Leadership Circles.” This signifies one of the biggest challenges for veteran students – finding ways they can truly lead the educational communities that they are a part of. They aren't satisfied being consumers of services; they want to change the communities they are a part of.

Combat veterans sometimes really struggle with some of the actions they have had to take to survive. We have a veteran's representative, Jeff DaSilva, who is a VA employee and combat veteran – he has given a talk to faculty at the Van Loan School as a way to clarify challenges that combat veterans face. This has gone a long way in making the entire school military-friendly.

Active military students have a different burden – being called back into service. We recently had a student sign up for a full semester of classes, who was called to help the hurricane victims in Texas. She got back in time for fall classes, but was then called down to Florida. It helps that Endicott's policy does not penalize students for dropping classes due to military service. It also helps that we have accelerated classes, as this student was able to start classes in our second session of the fall. In other schools, she would have missed an entire semester of classes.

What are ways a college should support students who are veterans? Where can students go for help if an issue does arise?

We have a peer tutor who is available to all students in case they experience mental health challenges, physical illness, or economic issues. The peer tutor can connect them with services to make sure their needs are met. We also provide the local ESO's number, Dave Perinchief. David is an excellent local resource that often knows of grants and other services that may benefit veterans and their families. If there are issues with housing benefits our certifying official, Susan Abate can help. The great thing about Endicott College is that every administrator and faculty member is ready to serve student needs. We are small, and truly care that each concern is addressed.

A dream of our veterans club is to find funding for a veteran's center. This would be a one stop shop so that students could have one contact that would help them navigate the college experience. If there is anyone out there who would like to meet with our club and help with funding, they would be very appreciative.

What are tools you see veterans using to succeed once they get to college?

Writing Center Our veteran students like the writing center. The writing center will connect with students from anywhere in the world. If they are deployed in Iraq, they can still set up a time to get support from the writing center tutors.

Library Research Support I tell every class that I teach to reach out to the library – librarians love to get research questions and to help students. When students finally do reach out to the library (available in person, on the phone, or through email), they are shocked at how true this is. Students always say, “I thought you were kidding! But they really do love answering research questions.” I had a Coast Guard student who was working all day on base and worked in the evening on his school projects. He said his wife was mad that he was having such a good time talking to someone at 11PM; he had to convince her it really was the librarian. Helping students become lifelong learners is a passion of mine; and it happens by connecting them with a community that is dedicated to learning.

Veterans Club The veterans club is a great way to connect with other students. They are a dedicated group of students who really want to support one another. I keep encouraging them to just go to the beach, hang out, have some fun – but that's more difficult for this service-oriented group of students.

Any last thoughts?

Research shows that veterans have the most difficulty of any minority group in completing an undergraduate degree. The challenge I've seen is that students don't see how a degree is going to help them and honestly, they may need help in leveraging a college education for maximum impact. Some of these students are first generation college students, balancing family with work and school, and dealing with PTSD or TBI.

Veterans are leaders and caretakers; they are incredibly used to giving to others. Veteran students need to learn how to receive as much as they give; this balance is important for them or they will burn out. Veterans can be so mission driven that they forget to have fun. I'm not kidding! The veterans club wants to do fundraisers, support others – but rarely think to just get together for dinner and a game of pool. This sounds like it would be easy to convince people to do, but it's simply not. Take time to enjoy your life, or bring your whole family to campus for an event or lecture. Other undergraduates may need reminders to get to class, to volunteer, but veterans need reminders to enjoy themselves -- get to one of the three private beaches at Endicott! Find a school that is going to care about you – and let yourself be cared about.

About Dr. Laura Douglass

Dean of Professional Studies at Endicott College Dr. Laura Douglass is the Dean of Professional Studies at Endicott College's Van Loan School, where she also serves as the faculty advisor for the Veteran's Club. She is an interdisciplinary scholar with research interests in trauma, eating disorders, and the integration of yoga as pedagogy in higher education settings. Her interest in serving non-traditional students has resulted in a robust bachelor degree completion program that is well suited to veterans and active duty military. She received a bachelor of arts in anthropology and fine arts from the University of South Florida and a doctorate in interdisciplinary educational studies from Lesley University. Her publications can be found in Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention, International Journal of Yoga Therapy, Pedagogy, Pluralism and Practice, Journal of Online Education, and Religion & Education, among others. She currently serves on the board of the Beverly Children's Learning Center and is a peer reviewer for the academic journal Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention.

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