Veterans Day is a national time to recognize those who have served and acknowledge the vital importance of their service to our country. Too often, we set aside only one or two days out of the year to appreciate the many sacrifices made by these men and women. So when our veterans come home and decide to pursue higher education or complete their degrees, we should step up and serve them to the best of our abilities at every stage of the student enrollment lifecycle.
Veterans come from many different service levels and many different educational backgrounds; it is impossible to cater to each and every combination of educational, personal, and military history, but there are steps that can be taken to ensure positive experiences.
Veterans bring a unique student persona to your campus, as with many other adult learners that enter the realm of higher education in a non-traditional way. Some of the most common traits they bring include:
Strong self-discipline, self-reliance, and resourcefulness
High-level work ethic and work experience
Team building and leadership skills
Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
A sense of integrity; ethics-driven
Project management experience
While many may find it easy to adjust after deployment or service, there are also many who need guidance to readjust to student and civilian life. Some areas in which help could be offered relate to:
Adjusting to a lack of rigid structure
Financial planning and management
Identifying a new sense of self and purpose
Difficulty focusing or adjusting attention on specific tasks
Refreshing existing and learning new study skills and test-taking tactics
Because of the unique distinctions between traditional students and student veterans, tackling issues or offering special orientations at the beginning of their student careers can be a helpful driver of success and ultimately the completion of a degree program. Here are a few engagement techniques you can use to relate to and incorporate this diverse segment of your student population:
Provide a counselor, a guide, or a point of contact with a relatable background. With the number of men and women who have served our country, it would not come as a surprise if several of your institution’s staff and faculty have been service members and veterans prior to their careers with you. Create a sense of continued camaraderie by promoting a network of military individuals that can become helpful guides through the course of their college careers.
Demonstrate a sense of community and support from the get-go. Make sure that your military student interest groups and organizations are properly represented during orientations and other on-boarding activities. Freshman orientation is not the only place representation is needed; ensure that transient, transfer, and adult student orientations are all prepared with representation.
Follow-up regularly in a consistent manner and be upfront about goals and expectations. Student veterans should be held to the same academic standards as any other student at your institution. Continue to ensure that student veterans have knowledge of and access to all of the student resources beyond orientation. Sometimes, they may have difficulty asking for or independently seeking additional help.
Learn and continue to refresh your team’s knowledge on current practices relating to education and military benefits that impact your student veterans. Provide training for your academic and financial advisors to ensure they are conveying the most up-to-date and correct information. Don’t let a single student veteran fall through the cracks because of a lack of knowledge by your staff.
Student veterans bring a lot of value to your student body and oftentimes, they serve as positive examples and influences for other students. It is necessary to not inadvertently alienate the demographic. Ensure that prospective students are aware of your inclusiveness by using personalized engagement platforms and other engagement tools to distinguish your college or university early on in the enrollment cycle of student veterans.