Common Mistakes Veterans Make When Going Back to School

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So many service members look forward to the end of their duty and make plans to return to school, earn a degree and begin building a civilian life. However, the dropout rates for veterans are excessively high; more than one-third of part-time veteran students and roughly 16 percent of full-time vets dropped out of college within nine months of enrollment. Participating in higher education as a veteran takes some time and preparation, and here are a few of the mistakes that can contribute to dropping out early.

Jumping Back into Civilian Life Too Quickly

Nervous about the end to their military careers and eager to jump into a new profession as quickly as possible, many service members enroll in college programs that begin as soon as vets touch back down on American soil. While attending courses can be an easier transition into civilian life than a full-time job, some veterans need additional time to process their time in the military and space to adjust to a much less rigorous schedule.

Veterans eager to complete their education and earn their degree might start with a relatively low course load and prioritize online classes, which will allow them more flexibility to fit in tools for healthy transitioning, like physical therapy or mental health treatment.

Failing to Recognize the Need for Extra Support

Most service members sign up for at least four years of active military duty, which means that most veterans have been as far as possible from the classroom for at least four years — though many veterans are away from school for a decade or more before concluding their military service and enrolling in higher education.



Schoolwork requires a different type and intensity of focus from the duties that many vets maintained during their military service. Thus, it is common for military students to require some extra support from their universities, who may supply vets with specialized academic counselors, tutors and other learning supports that make it easier to understand course material and remain committed to their degree program.

Additionally, many vets enroll in higher education while striving to balance schoolwork with their responsibilities to their families. Vets should communicate with their loved ones about the demands of their coursework and find viable solutions, like additional childcare, to feel supported in their education endeavors.

Neglecting the Variety of Tuition Assistance Programs

Post-9/11 GI education benefits are no joke. Service members and vets are entitled to full coverage of all tuition, fees, housing expenses and costs related to necessary school supplies, like textbooks. Even so, these are not the only programs that help vets pay for their education; vets might look for programs that offer additional scholarships to military service members, which might help cover other costs of living as a student. Some colleges, like the University of Arizona, offer military tuition discounts and waivers to both active-duty service members and vets. Understanding the full range of financial aid available to military students might help vets make more informed decisions — and perhaps allow them to maximize their benefits by transferring some tuition assistance to family members.

Avoiding Connections With Other Vets and Military Students

Some veterans want to put their military service behind them, but the truth is that other students with military experience can help vets survive and thrive in higher education. Other military students are likely to be suffering from the same types of struggles — overcoming injuries, processing traumas, balancing family responsibilities and more — and can commiserate and offer solutions to vets looking for additional support. Military students can coordinate their course loads to form strong and stable study groups that help vets achieve the credentials they need.

Typically, friends made in college become friends for life, and the bonds already shared amongst service members could ensure that such a community of military students will be invaluable to veterans during and after their degree program.

Veterans stand to benefit greatly by enrolling in higher education and obtaining a college degree. However, many vets become overwhelmed by their college courses and find themselves unable to complete the credentials they need to thrive in civilian life. By taking the above advice, veteran students can complete their studies and launch long and lucrative careers with all the support they need.

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