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Tips for veterans on how to make a successful reentry into college life

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Returning to school as a veteran can be a difficult transition. You’re faced with unique challenges both personally and academically. But there are many things you can do to succeed in school and have a good college experience. Here are some facts to keep in mind and ways to help make a smoother transition into student life.

Veteran services. Check in with your school to see exactly what programs are offered. Many campuses have a person in charge of working with veterans and helping you access services like your financial benefits and transferring credits. Some campuses also offer services for returning veterans that can help them better adjust to college life.

These are some examples of specialized programs:

  • The SERV program, or Supportive Education for the Returning Veteran, at Cleveland State University in Ohio provides all veterans with an individual campus walk-through and “vets only” classes for several semesters.
  • At Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland, the Combat2College program offers academic advising, mentoring and a first-year seminar that teaches veterans about on-campus resources, how to apply their military skills to schoolwork and more.
  • The University of California at Berkeley offers the “Veterans in Higher Education” class, where veterans learn to prepare for tests and study better.

If you’re in the process of picking out a college, consider basing your decision on whether the school offers services to make your transition easier. You can find this out by reading their Web site. If they offer programs, talk to the individuals in charge to get a better idea of how they work and how they can help.

Veteran groups/organizations. Many student veterans say that having contact and conversations with other veterans is an important part of their support structure as they transition back into college life. Student Veterans of America is a coalition of student groups at colleges and universities that provides a support network and advocates for student veterans’ needs on campus. You can learn more at www.studentveterans.org.

Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you find the transition into college life to be overwhelming and you are having difficulty adapting, don’t be afraid to speak up. Many veterans returning from a deployment experience symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. These are very treatable conditions, but you have to reach out for help first. If you are struggling emotionally, reach out to your school’s counseling center or VA resources in your area. If you or a fellow veteran are having thoughts of suicide, you can call 1-800-273-TALK for a confidential conversation with someone who can help.