American troops are returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in large numbers, and they are greeted by a newly revised, Post-9/11 G.I. Bill that boasts more educational incentive for veterans than ever before. But despite increased recruitment efforts, many troops remain hesitant.
If you’re unsure about enrolling in college after serving in the military, you probably share one of the five concerns noted below—but rest assured, there are ways to overcome these issues. You can succeed as a college student, and there are many programs out there to help you on the way to graduation day.
1. “I wouldn’t fit in on a liberal college campus after years of military training.”
While it’s true that the experiences of military personnel often set them apart from civilians, veterans bring diversity and maturity to college classrooms, serving as role models for their less experienced classmates. Look for opportunities to contribute to classroom discussions, or, if public speaking isn’t your thing, try taking courses in disciplines that have nothing to do with military life—like architecture or finance—until you find out which interests you share with your fellow students.
2. “I’ve been out of school too long—I can’t keep up academically.”
One of the many valuable rewards of military service is the Veterans Upward Bound program (VUB). This free service is administered by the U.S. Department of Education, and it works to ensure that student veterans never lag behind their civilian classmates. In addition to helping soldiers brush up on academic skills and regain their confidence, the VUB provides help for vets in getting their GED and filling out college applications. Such organizations also exist to see that student veterans get the same orientation and advising services as other incoming freshmen students.
3. “I have post-traumatic stress or another combat-related disorder.”
Advocacy for student veterans is growing—albeit slowly—on U.S. campuses. Student Veterans of America is one group that works to ease soldiers’ transition—especially those who have suffered physical and/or emotional injury as a result of combat. As you begin to research schools, look for those that offer student unions, drop-in centers, and advising services exclusively for vets.
4. “I don’t think I can afford it.”
In addition to G.I. Bill benefits, there are hundreds of scholarships, grants, and other financial awards for veterans who want to further their education. But it’s also important to think about the cost of college as it relates to your future income. College graduates—in every field—make more money than high school diploma holders. It’s a simple fact. When you consider the long-term financial benefits of earning a degree, can you really afford not to?
5. “I don’t know what I want to do after college.”
Struggling with uncertainty about the future is never a reason to hold yourself back academically. In fact, it’s all the more reason to dive in and start exploring your options. Whether you choose to do another tour of duty, start your own business, or switch to an entirely new career field, your degree will open doors for you. Many employers view a college degree not only as a testament to your academic merits, but also as proof that you are a dedicated learner who is willing to go the distance.