6 Helpful Tips for Veterans Going to College

Posted on 16 March 2017 |

tips veterans attending collegeIn the past decade there has been a marked increase in the number of veterans attending college. In 2009, there were roughly 500,000 student veterans receiving educational benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans. By 2013, that number had jumped to over 1 million. And considering that over 5 million service members who enlisted after September 11, 2001 are expected to transition out of the military by 2020, this trend will likely only continue.

For some, the change from active military service to sitting in a classroom learning about 18th century Russian literature or quantum mechanics can prove challenging. Luckily there are a number of programs and services in place to help with this move.

Recommendations for Student Veterans

Use your benefits

As a veteran, you are more than likely familiar with the GI Bill which offers educational benefits to those that have served in the military; however, there are a number of other resources that can provide additional assistance depending on the details of your service.

The Yellow Ribbon Program, for example, offers extended benefits to those who served after September 11, 2001, while veterans with disabilities can often find educational support from the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program.

In addition, there are a number of state tuition assistance programs for active or former members of the National Guard.

Apply for scholarships

While the benefits offered by the GI Bill will definitely help, they won't cover all of the costs associated with your education. In honor of your service, several organizations offer supplemental scholarships that exist solely for veterans. Some examples include:

Leverage your experience

Unlike most college students, you will be entering university with a broad range of skills and experience that you didn't gain from a classroom. Review available programs that can translate this real-world knowledge into college credit.

The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) can provide you with a series of exams that evaluate your knowledge of various subjects, allowing you to convert your experience into college credits. And while these exams may not be free, they are a fraction of the cost of the comparable college courses.

You might also review the Military Guide developed by the American Council on Education (ACE) with your student advisor. The guide is designed to help colleges match courses with a veteran's joint services transcript.

Stay connected

More and more colleges are establishing veteran centers on campus, offering students who have served the chance to more easily connect with each other. Check your campus directory or the Student Veterans of America site to find a group near you. And if there isn't one, consider starting a veterans organization at your school.

Broaden your horizons

While there are clear advantages to remaining connected to other veterans, there are also a number of benefits you can experience from expanding your social circle to include some civilians. Their perspectives and experience will likely be very different than your own, but by exposing yourself to new people with differing opinions and backgrounds, you'll enrich your own college experience and be better prepared for the workforce.

Talk to an advisor

Every college student is assigned an advisor, and your school might even have one designated specifically for veterans. This advisor can help you with course selections, determining your major, and any other decisions that you need to make regarding your college career.

Even if you are confident about your degree goals and eventual career path, an advisor can help you navigate the sometimes inscrutable complexities of college life -- after all, it's probably been a while since you've been a student.


Veterans will likely find college life to be very different from their time in the military, and flexibility and an openness to change will help them make this transition more seamlessly.

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