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5 Tips to Help Veterans Finish College

Student veterans have a unique set of challenges.

As a veteran, you’re moving from a disciplined, team-focused life to an individual-oriented civilian world, which can often be a very difficult transition.

Many student veterans report feeling isolated or bored, as the college environment fails to deliver the level of responsibility and mental and physical challenges they’ve grown accustomed to during their military service.

As a student veteran, you may be dealing with:

  • A lack of camaraderie
  • An inability to relate to other students
  • Difficulty obtaining credit for military training and experiences
  • A loss of purpose, friendships, identity and structure

Work, life, family and school: Student veterans juggle a lot.

Cindi Nadelman's quote about accomplishmentsThe average student veteran is 25 years old; 44% of student veterans are married, 52% have children and 42% work full time while pursuing a degree, according to a National Postsecondary Student Aid study. Those responsibilities paired with the challenges of transitioning out of the military can make it difficult to stay on track to graduate.

Cindi Nadelman, DBA, Director of Veteran Services at NEC said veterans are more likely to be better students now than before they entered the military.

“Your military training has prepared you for academic work, whether you realize it or not,” she said.

If you feel like you’re stuck or lack the support to move forward, you’re not alone. The tips below may help you successfully finish college.

  1. Understand your education benefits and eligibility. Connect with your school’s veteran’s benefits administrator and financial aid office to learn more about military education benefits available to you. In some cases, you may be eligible for more than one education benefit. You’ll also want to learn about the time limits for using certain benefits. You can also apply for education benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs by talking to a representative at your nearest VA regional office and applying in person.
  2. Start with one course. Ease into college life by taking one class your first term as a full-time student. Add a second class as you become more comfortable and confident during this new chapter of your life. New England College offers accelerated courses online that allow you to take one or two classes per seven-week term.
  3. Connect with other student veterans. Reach out to others who have similar life experiences and can relate to the challenges you face. Introduce yourself and share your military affiliation with your classmates.
  4. Join veterans’ groups. Most colleges have on-campus veterans groups. Check with your school’s veterans administrator to find ways to connect and get started.
  5. Ask for help. Do not resist asking for help. Between fellow students, faculty and advisors – people want you to succeed. Professors can be reached via email, phone or even in-person. Students have access to a variety of academic resources and tutoring tools such as Smarthinking through NEC. But you also have the support of the VA, national organizations like Student Veterans of America, and perhaps even smaller groups within your community.

Transitioning into your new post-military life isn’t easy, but finishing your degree is a goal you can reach. Work hard, connect with other veterans and take advantage of your school’s resources and support.

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