Transitioning from Boots to Books: Quick Tips for Student Veterans

September 1, 2016

Kim Douthit

Veterans Resource Specialist
Portland Community College, Sylvania Campus

Many student veterans struggle with the transition from military service to higher education.  Some of the common issues they face include difficulties adjusting to the classroom environment (physical discomfort of restrictive desks, test anxiety, etc.), feeling out of place on a campus made up of younger students, uncertainty about how their education benefits “work”, and being overwhelmed by all the decisions they need to make (what to major in, what classes to take, etc.).

Most, if not all, post-secondary institutions offer services to help student veterans make the most of their college experience.  Here are some of my quick tips for veterans who are wading into the world of higher education:

Find Your Community

One of the best predictors for overall satisfaction for any student is their feeling of connectedness to the campus.  Students who access campus services, participate in clubs, or find other ways to connect with peers have a more enriching college experience and are more successful in completing their degree.  With that in mind, here are some ways student veterans can connect to their campus community:

Find out if your campus has a Veterans Center.  Many campuses now offer lounge space for student veterans that includes amenities like free coffee and computer labs.  They often organize events and social activities specifically for their veteran population.  Veterans Centers are a great way to connect with other student veterans, get referrals to services, or even just get the gouge on which professors are the best!

If your campus does not have a designated Veterans Center, there might be a student group or club for veterans.  Student groups can provide a sense of support and unity.  The more experienced student veterans on your campus can be a good resource for everything from navigating campus services to finding good, cheap places to get lunch.

If your campus is lacking a student veterans club there is support (including funding!) available through Student Veterans of America (https://studentveterans.org/) to get a club started at your school.

Access Campus Services

Many campuses offer great services such as career counseling, job placement assistance, academic advising, tutoring, and classroom accommodations.  You are paying for these services with your tuition so you may as well use them!

An example of an under-utilized service on my campus is Disability Services.  We have an incredible system set up to request classroom accommodations but many students don’t think they need or qualify for them.  Students are often surprised to find out how easy it is to get assistance with note-taking and even getting permission to take a test in an alternate location.  Look into the services available on your campus and make an effort to find out how they can benefit your classroom experience.

I think I speak for my fellow student services professionals when I say we are 100% here for the students.  It sounds corny but student success truly is our success.  The best recommendation I can make to any student veteran is to seek out and utilize the services on their campus.  The staff is there for the sole purpose of doing whatever is necessary to help students be successful in achieving their educational goals.