Transition involves reintegration into the civilian community after active duty service. The changes from life in the military community to life as a civilian may include relocation, loss of social support systems, reintegration into a civilian lifestyle, different or nonexistent health care services, and possibly a new job or career path. While adjusting to the civilian community the student/veteran may also be adjusting to life as a college student.
Although returning veterans may bring maturity and a broader understanding of global issues to the learning experience because of their military service, it is important for educators to understand the perceptions of the student/veterans as they transition to college students. Early awareness by the institutions of this population’s needs provides opportunities for the college community to develop appropriate techniques to minimise attrition and increase the chances of success.
Studies that address the transition from secondary education to college indicate that the transition into higher education can be especially challenging for the adult learner who enters college after having a break in academic studies. This applies to student/veterans who frequently experience a significant break in academic attendance as a result of the requirements of military service, which requires the student to readjust to the college environment and develop or recall appropriate study habits. Additionally, curriculum requirements may have changed during the student/veterans’ service, requiring updating some academic skills.
Student/veterans experience a major change when they enter postsecondary education. Campus culture is quite different than military culture, so campus life often referred to as campus culture, is one of the biggest adjustments for the student/veteran. The college environment is typically designed to encourage creativity and individualism; independence and individuality are embraced in academic communities while the military structure requires conformity and adherence to predetermined behaviour rules. The transition from a highly structured environment to a less structured environment may be problematic for some student/veterans and institutions need to be prepared to assist student/veterans with this potential difficulty. The relatively unstructured campus atmosphere can be an impediment to student veterans’ abilities to work within the system. The military provides a highly structured, regulated, and well-documented environment. There is a schedule for every hour of every day.
The steps necessary to accomplish a task or complete an assignment are provided in detail. Although the institution may offer a comprehensive orientation program, timing constraints may prevent the student/veteran from attending the orientation so they may begin college without the benefit of an orientation. If the student/veteran does attend the orientation, the event is not typically devoted to specific issues facing student/ veterans. The bureaucracy of academic institutions may be puzzling to those individuals who are unfamiliar with it. The unique campus culture of each institution is also a potential stumbling block for some student/veterans. Some institutions have developed military services offices. The offices may focus on the transition experience from an academic and social standpoint.
The student/veteran’s success relies not only on the individual but also on the institution. Selection of an institution by the student/ veteran is an important choice, but it is not as easy as it may seem. What happens in the higher education process may be described as a “black box”. Outward appearances of structure and program descriptions may not represent what is happening at the institution. It is difficult to understand the dynamics of a situation strictly from outside observations. An example of how a student/veteran and an institution might be incompatible are things as elusive as not acknowledging the presence of veterans on campus, a faculty member penalising a student/veteran for missing class because of an appointment, or an institution which does not recognise Veterans Day. Some institutions provide the requisite Veterans Services office and define themselves as military-friendly organisations, but there is little to no support behind the self-assigned designation.
Although Veterans websites refer to and list colleges which proclaim to be veteran-friendly, what does the term “veteran-friendly school” mean? This is a general term used to describe those schools which have an awareness and sensitivity to military culture, which immediately establishes a common base of knowledge between the student/veteran and the institution. It is a loosely used term which is self-assigned by the institution. It is not a standardised term and is not monitored for its quality, nor is it a reflection of uniform institutional policies and practices for student/veterans. The websites do list HEI’s which have been approved to certify whether a student is a veteran. This “approval” does not reflect the treatment which veterans may receive at the institution, nor the institution’s awareness of student/veteran issues.
Student/veterans must assess institutions for indications of a military-friendly environment. For example, the presence of a Reserve Officer Training Corps commonly referred to as ROTC, unit on campus or at a minimum the lack of prohibition against ROTC creates a more military-friendly environment. The veteran-friendly school is more likely to have administrative and faculty members with prior military service, which means some of the employees of the institution likely have a familiarity with various the challenges of military life. The process of selecting an institution is compounded by the fact that the military person is often faced with the need to select an institution far in advance of the actual date of matriculation. The geographical location of the prospective school may be across the world from the service member’s current location. Information about the institution may not be readily available or the service member’s ability to access such information may be limited as a result of mission requirements. This means that finding an appropriate school may be a difficult task for the student/veteran.
With our military out of Iraq and funding for global military operations on the decline, thousands of newly discharged men and women are trying to figure out “What’s next?” Most of our Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors joined the military before their 21st birthday, and it’s often the only job they’ve ever held. While it’s […]
How HEI’s can respond to the needs of Veteran Students Student veterans are not a new presence on campus, but this population has the potential to increase as a result of the drawdown of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq which will enable more veterans to participate in postsecondary education. The anticipated increase in the student […]
Because the student veteran population brings unique experiences to the learning stage it is important to develop programs which accommodate these experiences. Engagement Services identify colleges and universities as being in a good position to assist student veterans with their education and their reintegration into civilian society. At the 2019 Conference on Improving College Education […]
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), not to be confused with traumatic brain injury (TBI), is another challenge facing many student veterans. This condition is often not readily apparent to those interacting with the student veterans and yet affects a person’s interaction with others and outlook on life as reported in a 2008 monograph entitled Invisible Wounds […]
Multiple definitions for what constitutes an adult learner exists. As early as 20 years ago, many described non-traditional students as including those who were employed full-time had dependents and were financially independent of their parents. Nontraditional college students have been identified as “adults beginning or continuing their enrollment as college students at a later-than-typical age”. […]
Transition involves reintegration into the civilian community after active duty service. The changes from life in the military community to life as a civilian may include relocation, loss of social support systems, reintegration into a civilian lifestyle, different or nonexistent health care services, and possibly a new job or career path. While adjusting to the […]