If you’ve decided to go from service member to student, you’re not only ahead of the game with highly valued experience that employers seek in graduates, but you’re also sure to skirt the student-loan pit where so many have fallen and — these days — remain. You’re already on the upswing going into college, but it’s often difficult to decipher college itself. It’s a whole other world in there, so here are some hints for navigating the academic realm.
If you haven’t already, go to this website and complete an application for federal student aid (FAFSA). But wait, you say, I don’t want loans … I don’t need no stinking financial aid loans! And you’re right — you don’t need loans. But do you know about federal and state grants? A grant means there’s no interest, no debt to pay and for many qualifying students: free for the taking. There are mountains of these grants, which means too many to list here, but do visit this site if you’re interested in finding out what’s offered in your planned location of educational interest (for advice on finding a school that’s right for you, go here). The takeaway: Go to the federal aid website and fill out the FAFSA application. It will automatically plug you in to a multitude of resources so you can receive what you’re entitled.
OK, now we can move inside the true realm of academics. If you haven’t been to school outside the military since high school, you’re in for a breath of fresh air. College can be extremely therapeutic for vets, especially for those who had a lot of responsibility in the service. It is a welcome change to not have to worry about anyone but yourself. It may sound selfish, but you earned it.
Most teachers are fascinated with veterans. Make it a point to remember their titles and names. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with “professor” – even if they only have a master’s degree (the title professor is technically reserved for those with a doctorate). This will promote mutual respect, and keep in mind that if you plan on running the gamut of degrees, you’re going to need letters of recommendation; it’s wise to put forth the effort and allow your professors to get to know you.
There are other staff employees you may want to get connected with as well. For instance, a registrar’s office employee can offer more information than class schedules, and if you play your cards right you can then go to them for quick advice when your advisor is out on some sabbatical in Finland.
Another instrumental figure is a reference librarian, who can walk you through the steps of researching databases and so forth. Knowing how to navigate online databases can free up a boatload of time when conducting research for an assignment.
Get involved: The more faculty and staff who know you, the better. As I said before, this is your time to shine as an individual – enjoy it!
Don’t ditch class. This really ticks teachers off. To quote the Cherokee: Walk a mile in another person’s (in this case, teacher’s) moccasins. And remember how you felt when someone was missing from a formation, muster, etc.? Don’t be that person.
Get ready to read. But if you have the attention span of a gnat, here’s a little trick a professor taught me. If you put off a book for too long and now it’s crunch-time, you have two options, and not reading isn’t one of them. Choice one: Read the first and last sentence of every paragraph. But here’s the catch: if you don’t get the gist of that paragraph in those two sentences then you must read the whole paragraph. Choice two/last resort: Find a book review on the book and read it thoroughly (these can normally be tracked down in those handy-dandy library databases mentioned earlier, and are rarely longer than 1,000 words).
Most importantly — and I can’t emphasize this enough: enjoy yourself. Make the most of your college experience. It won’t be easy; there will be times when you’ll want to skip town. But when those cave-in thoughts arise, remember basic training — remember to dig deep and push through (and earn that diploma!).
Never forget where you came from