Colin P. McNoldy
Area of study: Civil Engineering Technology Bachelor Degree
MOS: 2W051 while active Air Force; 3E551 in Air National Guard
Tell us about yourself:
My name is Colin McNoldy, and I am from a small town in Schuylkill County, in eastern Pennsylvania.
My interests growing up included working on vehicles, engines, and anything else mechanical. I also had a habit of taking things apart to try and figure out how they worked. I graduated from high school in 2007, and attended Penn State Schuylkill studying civil engineering.
I only attended for two semesters before deciding that school wasn’t right for me. After my time at college, I worked at a part-time job. During this time I realized that I needed to make a change for the better. I spent my time researching possible options; one of them was to join the military. Since many of my family members served in the military, it seemed to be the obvious route.
I left for Air Force basic training in October of 2008.
What prompted you to return to school?
I decided to return to school after I realized that even in the military having a degree was important.
Supervisors encouraged me to continue my education, both through professional military education (PME) and college courses. After I was trained and caught up on my PME, I decided to take a few CLEP tests and online classes to finish my Community College of the Air Force associate’s degree.
This reignited my desire to obtain a bachelor\’s degree. I spent my free time researching schools and degree programs. I eventually came back to civil engineering as what I wanted to do. I knew that I would not be able to take the classes I needed online. I researched local schools around the base where I was stationed at the time, but there were not any that had a reputable program.
Why did you choose this school?
I searched the Internet for civil engineering programs in Pennsylvania.
Of course, this search turned up all the big schools like Penn State and Bucknell.
I chose Penn College after my dad recommended that I look into it. I knew a few friends from high school who graduated from Penn College, so I figured it would be worth it to find out more. I attended an open house during the spring semester, and found that it offered the best mix of everything I was looking for: small class sizes, knowledgeable instructors and students, hands-on training, an ABET-accredited program, and was a very military friendly school.
During the open house, I met with the Veterans Office to discuss my financial aid options and benefits and to apply to the school.
What military benefits did you use?
I am currently using Chapter 33 Post 9-11 GI Bill at the 100% benefit level. This covers my tuition, a yearly book stipend, and a monthly housing allowance. Also, since I am currently serving in the Air National Guard on a six-year enlistment, I am also using the Education Assistance Program (EAP).
Do you believe your military experience has made you a better student?
Definitely. I would attribute almost everything I have accomplished in school to something I’ve learned or was taught in the Air Force. Certain values that are instilled in you, such as pride and determination, translate directly into the academic world. Before I joined the military, when I was in school, I really didn’t have motivation to be there or to excel. Now, I have that motivation and determination to excel at school and to be proud of what I have accomplished.
Describe your student experience:
At first I was really nervous about attending college.
Not only was it going to be new, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from the other students in the class.
I was so afraid that I would be surrounded by nothing but 18 yr olds who were straight out of high school and they would be looking at me like I was their mother or something. But after the first term all of the nervousness disappeared. This last year I have met some of the most intelligent and inspiring people that this world has to offer. People from all walks of life, young, old, military, spouses, true professionals, entrepreneurs, and yes even some really amazing high school students.
This school truly does challenge you every step of the way to do your best and never give up. Not a day goes by that I regret not coming here sooner.
Talk about the challenges you faced adjusting:
Going from a regimented, military environment to a do-as-you-want civilian lifestyle was a difficult transition. Also, learning to appreciate the experiences of students who have never served or deployed took some getting used to.
What advice do you have for veterans returning to school?
The best advice that I can give my fellow veterans is to stay focused and ask questions if you aren’t sure what to do. Someone there will know the right answer. Nothing can happen in class that we haven’t already seen somewhere else. In fact, some of the things that we learn in class are things that you might wish that you would have known while you were in. Seek out other fellow veterans and work together to help each other out. The brotherhood and sisterhood still exists outside of the service, no matter what branch, a veteran is a veteran no matter what.