10 Tips to Help You Transition from the Military to College
South University is proud to have helped many veterans, active military members and their families to further their education and prepare for their next career move. Over the years, we’ve seen what has helped military students succeed in choosing, starting and finishing their college degree, and we hope that what we’ve learned can make life simpler for those who follow.
1. Start by figuring out your interests and goals.
Earning a degree requires a lot of time and effort, so it’s important to be clear on what you’re working toward and to choose a program aligned to your interests, strengths and professional goals. Before choosing any program, look closely at its courses and outcomes. Sure, there might be a required course or two that you’re unsure about, but on the whole, does the curriculum excite you? Will you stay motivated to keep going when life gets busy? If you're comparing multiple programs and career options, reflect on what you liked most about your military career. What civilian careers could offer those same aspects? Remember, your military benefits are limited. Make the most of them by choosing a program you’ll stick with.
2. Consider your schedule and learning needs.
If you need to balance school with family and other personal or professional obligations, choose a program where’s that possible – whether that means learning 100% online, taking evening classes on campus, or taking a mix of online and in-person courses.
If your options are open, think about how you learn best. Do you want full control of your schedule? A program where you can access your classes online anytime, anywhere might be the best choice. Would you like the option to visit campus to meet with professors and classmates sometimes but still do some courses and work online? Or maybe you strongly prefer face-to-face, in-person interactions. Know your preferences before making any decision!
3. Look into your military education benefits.
Be sure you understand your military education benefits and the availability of any additional institution-specific military scholarships at each school. Seek out a school with knowledgeable staff who are willing to take the time to guide you through your benefits and other financial options as well as the entire financial aid process. When discussing your benefits, pay attention to the details, including payment limitations and timing, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. If a school isn’t experienced in working with military students and veterans or their military benefits, then that school isn’t right for you.
4. Ask about transfer and experience credits.
Veterans bring invaluable experience to the classroom and your school should recognize that. Find a university that will evaluate your prior learning and military courses to see if you’re eligible for college credit toward your undergraduate or graduate program. Transfer of credit opportunities can save you time and money and help ensure that you’re not taking classes on things you already know.
5. Create a plan for your success.
Success often is a matter of making a plan and staying committed. You’re used to direction and structure from the military, and now you need to create that structure for yourself. Give yourself deadlines for making progress on course assignments, and follow a regular schedule for studying and doing coursework.
6. Get help when you need it.
In the military, you knew you could count on the people around you. You were part of a team working together with one goal. The same is true in school. Your success is the mission, and you deserve to be surrounded by people ready to support you. For example, South University offers our students tutoring, academic advising, financial aid counselors, a Career Services team, and library support staff online and in-person.
Once you’re a student, just remember that learning in the classroom will be a different experience than learning in the military. That’s okay. No one expects you to excel at everything or go at it alone. Help is available; all you have to do is ask.
7. Don’t neglect your physical and mental health.
Leaving the military can be a challenging transition, so take advantage of any counseling benefits or student assistance programs offered by your school. Veterans We also encourage you to explore the mental health resources available to you through your local Department of Veteran Affairs. To minimize your stress levels in school, leave room in your schedule for taking care of yourself. Following a healthy routine where you get enough sleep, exercise, and eat well will help you stay at the top of your game in and outside of the classroom.
8. Connect with others who’ve been in your shoes.
Get to know other veterans at your school early on, and consider joining or starting a Student Veterans of America group at your campus. Your fellow military classmates may have good advice to help with the transition. At the very least, they may be able to relate to your struggles and successes.
9. Get involved with student life.
Even if you’re nervous, push yourself to join student groups and participate in school activities. Soon, you’ll realize how many people also feel outside their comfort zone. At South University, our diverse student body includes many adult learners with a variety of life experiences, including those going to college for the first time or returning after many years away. Befriending your peers can give you a sense of community. You’ll also gain more people to check in on you, encourage you, and to talk to about your schoolwork or your goals.
10. Be confident in your ability to succeed.
As a member of the military, you’ve proven that you can take on challenges and overcome obstacles. Undoubtedly, you learned and grew during the military. You can do the same in college. Earning a degree is within your reach once you set your mind to it, and we’re confident you’ll use your education to continue moving forward, pursuing your goals and achieving impressive feats.
To all military community members - thank you for your service to our country!