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Making the transition from troop to student

Veteran_Transition_banner_6Nov2013As the country concludes more than a decade of fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, thousands of recently discharged troops are returning home. Many veterans are faced with the dilemma of what to do upon their return.

Higher education institutions are beginning to address the needs of student veterans returning to school and recognizing that they are distinctly different from those of the traditional student. Typically, student veterans are considered non-traditional students since they are more likely to be older and many have some college credit that they may have earned while in the military.1,2 Because they are a diverse population with a vast range of experiences, their educational experience will be much different than other non-veteran students.

Colleges and universities across the country, including National Louis University, which recently was awarded the 2014 Military Friendly Schools designation, are putting programs and services in place to ease the transition from troop to student.

When choosing the appropriate college or university for their educational goals, veterans should be aware of important and available resources and programs that will maximize their benefits and contribute to their success. With that in mind, following are some key considerations for military veterans to keep in mind when entering or returning to college.

Establish Specific Points of Contact
A major frustration voiced by veterans who have returned to school is that the process is overwhelming. Identify a specific person who you can contact with questions [at NLU, that would be Paul Knudtson, Director of Armed Service Relations, at 312.261.3262 or pknudtson@nl.edu], rather than the general department.

Identify Veteran-Specific Learning Communities
Colleges and universities that offer Veteran-specific classes and programs find that service men and women are able to foster these relationships and enhance their educational success.1,2

Learn About the Community-Based Approach
Colleges and universities have developed partnerships to better respond to various student challenges. An approach that fully addresses issues, including health care and employment, helps these Veterans stay in college and fulfill their educational goals.

Make Your Voice Heard
Institutions are learning what works and what doesn’t work for veterans. By letting them have a say in policies and procedures, veterans will feel integrated and have a sense of contributing to improving programs and resources. A true sense of belonging makes the transition that much smoother.

Research Viable Tuition Options
The Post 9/11 GI Bill has changed the way benefits are disbursed, causing delayed educational financial assistance to veterans. Instead of adding to this frustrating process, colleges and universities are adopting tuition options, as well as for the purchase of books and supplies. Did you know that your experience in the military could earn you college credits that could help you graduate sooner, with financial aid remaining that you can share with a dependent? To help military veterans maximize benefits like this as they pursue a path to higher education, National Louis has outlined a step-by-step process to help navigate the often turbulent waters of applying for university financial assistance.

National Louis University’s Veterans Program
NLU has a dedicated Veterans Program that helps veterans smoothly transfer from the military to academia — and eventually to a career in the civilian workplace. Among its many offerings, the program provides military students with a dedicated contact to help them navigate financial aid, curriculum advising and academic support, as well as career development services. The university also partners with community organizations that specialize in mental health/social service support, physical and spiritual health, etc. to support veterans returning to earn their degree. To learn more, visit the Veterans Program home page.

For more details about about veterans’ transition to civilian and academic life, please read NLU’s white paper on the topic.


1Department of Defense, Public Affairs Office. 2009. Number of Deployments for Those Ever Deployed By Service, Component and Reserve Type for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (based on the Contingency Tracking System), as of 31 December 2009.
2Steele, Jennifer, Nicolas Salcedo, and James Coley. 2010. Service Members in School: Military Veterans’ Experiences Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Pursuing Postsecondary Education. Washington, DC: The American Council on Education.
3American Council on Education (ACE), “Serving Those Who Serve: Making Your Institution Veteran Friendly,” Transition STEM Artifacts and Resources Online, accessed August 9, 2013, http://tsar.omeka.net/items/show/25.

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