It is not just military service that sets student veterans apart from their classmates. According to a 2013 American Council on Education report, they are often the first members of their family to attend college and are often about a decade older than other students. They tend to study harder and are driven to succeed, but feel less engaged and connected to campus life.
The good news in this study is that many veterans feel supported by their institutions. This support is found at every level—from the financial aid process and registration and the classroom. As faculty and staff, we need to find ways to ensure that veterans have the tools and skills they need to walk their educational path. But, there are challenges as you will read in this article from military.com. Misconceptions about veterans abound, do a reality check at NEA Ten Things You Should Know about Working with Today’s Student Veterans.
Cultivating a sense of belonging on campus can be helpful. So, how might we get started?
Here are some ideas:
- Ask if a student in interested in sharing his/her experiences rather than singling someone out in class discussions
- If a student veteran seems to be struggling, talk with him or her
- Know the resources that are available, this includes VetNet, but also the services that are available to all GCC students, both traditional and online
- Remember that sometimes active duty students need flexibility with due dates—be accommodating when possible
- Introduce them to organizations and activities on campus. Review tips for Getting Student Veterans off the Sidelines for some ideas
- Capitalize on each veteran’s strength and determination to help reach educational goals
The VetNet resource center is a must-stop for veterans on campus—it is the place to get certified for educational benefits, meet other vets and find support for challenges. Advisors can learn how to meet the needs of this population from the NACADA: Advising Student Veterans.
Perhaps one of the best all around sites for learning about student veterans is the American Council on Education: Supporting Student Veterans. The articles and resources here are directed at all members of the educational community. You will find information on helping make the transition from soldier to student and much more.