Transitioning to college after military life can be a difficult change. While pursuing a degree is a great opportunity to shape the direction of the next stage of your life, you may be unsure about starting out. This is a common feeling shared by many transitioning military students so, don't worry! With a bit of planning and an open mind, these five steps may be just what you need to make your transition a bit easier.
Step 1: Find out the details on your military benefits.
College is wonderful opportunity, but it can be expensive. Since you have served your country, there are various military benefits for which you may qualify. The G.I. Bill is one of the most basic benefits you have earned, but there are many chapters and changes you may not be aware of. Contacting the university you would like to attend is a great start. You just never know what benefits you're entitled to unless you ask or research.
Step 2: What career path suits you best?
You may know you want to go to college after your military service but don't know the exact career that is right for you. This is something many students experience. If you excelled and liked your job while you served, you may find a civilian counterpart. If you're not sure or want to stray far away from what you did previously, many colleges have career coaches who can assist in guiding you. If you still have not found the right fit, have no fear - many students start out taking core classes before they decide on a major.
Step 3: Be an active participant.
Many students who have served in the military may feel alone or isolated after starting school. Sometimes, the reaction to this change can be to seclude oneself and think, "No one understands me" or "I'm different from the others." One way to avoid these feelings is to immerse yourself in a club, organization or community. Most universities, online or ground, have groups you can choose to affiliate with. If you feel more inclined to stick with other prior soldiers, you'll likely find a group or two of like-minded individuals that may have experienced things similar to what you have gone through.
Step 4: Keep an open mind!
Let's face it, you may have a very different outlook then you had before you joined the military. Because of this, your thoughts and perceptions on various topics may be different from your classmates'. This doesn't make your opinion or the other person's opinion wrong; part of the college experience is to not only learn from the professor but also your peers and community. Rather than reject each differing opinion or idea, embrace them.
Step 5: Develop a routine and study habits.
If there is one thing you learn from your service, it's routine and structure. You may experience a lack of the strict structure that you had while you were serving once you start college. However, that doesn't mean you can't create your own. Developing a routine and good study habits not only helps you be more successful in your academic endeavors but can ease your stress and help you feel more positive about your direction.
Have questions about the military friendly education programs at AIU? Read our Military Student FAQ.