Many Veterans think they experience culture shock when they make the transition from military to civilian life, but an even greater transitional shock is the one experienced when Veterans enter college for the first time.  The most common advice comes in studying hard and managing your time well, but here are five overlooked adjustments from life as a Veteran to life as an student.

College isn’t just about studying

Many Veterans feel as though they can’t relate to traditional college age students. Relations occur in college just like the service by joining groups and working together as a team whether it’s a sports team or an academic team. Friendships are forged on the field just like the service.

There are other Veterans in college

According to the American Council on Education more than 60 percent of the colleges across the U.S have programs and services specifically for military members and with the advent of the Post-9/11 G.I Bill the numbers of Veterans enrolling in colleges across the country has increased. Many Veteran college students have formed peer groups such as the Student Veterans of America which has more than 500 chapters around the country so Veterans can offer each other camaraderie and support.

It’s a Dual transition

Military members attending college are transitioning to both college life and civilian life. Unlike the structured routine of military life, college life is relatively free flowing with a lot of choices. Returning Veterans will find the less structured environment challenging however this can be mitigated by setting up a schedule, joining groups to socialize and setting clear goals.

The mission remains

Just like the service, it’s all about the mission, and this mission is to graduate. Higher education’s dirty little secret is that graduation rates differ across institutions but not everyone gets a degree. Earning a degree is just like earning rank because it takes hard work and discipline and lots of studying. Using the transferable skills that made you a successful servicemember such as working hard, paying attention and staying on time will help you earn a degree.

Everybody is in transition

College students come in all shapes and sizes and everyone is adjusting to the new routine of college life. Military members have some additional transitional issues which add to the stress such as working and having a family, and it’s okay to reach out to the college community to find a friendly face in the administration to help guide you.

Kevin K Dean is the Veterans Certificate Coordinator at SUNY Empire State College’s Center for Graduate Studies.

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Published on Jan. 7, 2013

Estimated reading time is 2.2 min.

Views to date: 86


  1. Jayme January 10, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    I think you missed family as an overlooked adjustment. A lot of vets that I know have families and it is tough to go from just working full time to taking care of a family and still have time to get the study hours in. I think you have just scraped the surface with these few topics.

    • bc4h10 January 15, 2013 at 11:56 pm

      Your right and I agree, what about the veterans with family who suffers form ptsd. its not a condition we were doing are jobs, its called remmeberence. we remember the teaching of combat and witnessed it not just seen it on TV now civilans are suffering because thier is not enogh secutrity or communities comming together. weapons are not evil people are we remember

  2. Evan Stevens January 9, 2013 at 6:11 am

    You either didn’t serve, are obfuscating, or things have radically changed in the military, IMHO. It’s all about sex, aggression and fear, since before the time of Caesar. What else is enough motivation to kill? How does that translate into civilian life?

  3. Phil January 9, 2013 at 1:13 am

    Here are corrections to errors in this story:
    “ as a Veteran to life as an student.” should read “as a student”.
    “…working together as team” should read “working together as a team”.
    “…skills that you made you a successful” one “you” needs to be removed.
    “…flowing with lot of choices.” should read “with a lot of choices”.

  4. Jason Fay January 7, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Nicely written Dean

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