Professional Education and Career Blog

How a Veteran Can Transition to the Classroom

militaryWhile many adults returning to school face challenges in adapting to a different environment, veterans of the Armed Forces can have unique needs. Without recognizing what issues you may encounter and how best to deal with them ahead of time, life may be much more difficult than it needs to be. With the right attitude, you can move from being in the military mindset and transition to being a civilian again.

A Difficult Transition

It can be difficult in particular for combat veterans. They are moving from an environment where their lives are on the line every day, and death and destruction are common sights, to a campus where many of the students don’t even know anyone who has been in the military. Non-combat veterans can also face difficulties with moving from a very structured environment where they knew what they were supposed to be doing at any particular moment, to one with much less structure and much more personal flexibility.

Easing the Way

Here are some tips on making the transition from the Armed Forces to college a smoother experience.

1) Be prepared. Go in understanding that you will be a lot more in control of your life than was the case before. In the military, there is always someone higher up to tell you what to do, but in college, you’re the top rank of your life.

2) Look for colleges with a good Veterans organization. One of the more difficult aspects of making the transition is feeling lonely for people who understand your recent experiences. Being around other veterans can help ease that, and you can all help each other to smooth the road.

3) Work at forming relationships with non-veterans. If you find it difficult to relate to people without military backgrounds, all the more reason to get more involved in campus groups that will help with socialization.

4) Look for ways to use your military skillset. The military has taught you numerous ways to be organized and effective, and these skills can be applied to your school work. Sometimes veterans feel like it’s an alien world where everything is new, but it’s really not. Often the most successful students are ex-military because they have applied the discipline they learned to their studies.

5) Don’t necessarily believe the college life is trivial. Not everything has to be life-or-death to be meaningful. Coming from an environment where daily decisions can have the ultimate cost, it’s easy to feel that the daily homework grind pales in importance. It is important – just in a different way. It’s important to your future.

military26) Accept that others are not going to feel the same way about the military. Some will have no opinion, and others will have strong opinions, but don’t feel like you need to make everyone understand what the military is “really” all about. Many people are not going to understand your service in the military. Agree to disagree.

7) Seek help if you need it. Recognize when your stress levels are getting unmanageable. There are many resources out there to help you.

No doubt that the move to civilian life can be a difficult one, but there’s no reason it can’t be a successful one. Use the available veteran programs, have patience with yourself, and keep moving forward.