Julia Riccardi — US Army Biomedical Equipment Specialist to Smith College!

Each week we spotlight enlisted veterans who have successfully transitioned from the military into elite colleges around the nation.

Julia Riccardi ’19, Smith College, Ada Comstock Scholars Program

Hometown: Dallas, TX

Fun Fact About Yourself: Cooking with a cast iron skillet is my thing. I even brought my cast-iron skillet to an adult show-and-tell at my community college.

Intended major: Neuroscience

What did you do in the military? I’m still in the reserves and serve as a Biomedical Equipment Specialist maintaining and repairing medical equipment.

What was your proudest accomplishment in the military? When I was deployed, one of our hospitals had a critical piece of equipment break. It took a long time to fix but a few weeks later, that piece of equipment saved someone’s life.

Why did you decide to pursue college? I always planned to go to college so it was more of a question of when I would get around to doing it. As time passed, I became less and less confident about my ability to succeed in college. While deployed, I took stock of my experience and skills and realized that I had the ability to succeed and just went after it.

How has the transition been from the military to the classroom? Challenging. School requires a different sort of discipline. There is no one here telling you what to do and it is very individualistic. In the military, we all have a vested interest in each other’s success. Sometimes the NCO comes out in me when people are texting in class or online shopping and I have to remind myself that I’m not longer on active duty.

What led you to choose Smith? When I started looking at transferring to a four-year college, one of my mentors, a professor at my community college, immediately suggested Smith because of the Ada Comstock Scholars Program. She seemed really confident in my abilities and connected me with Sid Dalby, the Associate Director of Admissions and Ada Comstock Advisor at Smith. Sid connected me to other students in the program and by the time I was accepted, it was a no-brainer.

What’s your favorite part about Smith? The Ada Comstock Scholars Program (ACSP). I wouldn’t have chosen Smith without that community. It’s amazing to go through this experience together with other non-traditional adult learners. The traditional students are phenomenal at dealing with the classroom but the ACSP students are great at dealing with life and they provide a terrific support network.

What advice would you give to future applicants? First and foremost, APPLY! When writing your essay, tell your own unique story. Smith and the ACSP care about what makes you a unique and a valuable asset to Smith. Be honest and share the real reason you want to come to college. Finally, get to know the other Ada’s on campus — speaking with a traditional student may have scared me away. Ada’s will give it to you straight as someone coming from a similar point of view.

What would you like your peers at Smith to say about you after you graduate? Many of my fellow students have never met anyone in the military and some of them have negative stereotypes about people serving. I hope that by seeing me in the classroom that they were able to change their perspective a little bit and realize that military people are regular people that just have a different job than they do.

What are you goals post-graduation? I want to get my PHD in neuroscience. I just started my second contract in the reserves so I will also be working there for the next six years. It’s kind of like the president but for even longer terms.

Smith College is a Smith College is a private, independent women’s liberal arts college located in Northampton, MA. It is consistently ranked one of the best colleges in the world.

For more information, please visit www.smith.edu.

Service to School is a 501c(3) non-profit committed to helping our nation’s veterans earn admission to highly selective colleges and universities. Our mission is to help every transitioning military veteran win admission to the best college or graduate school possible.

In 2015, Service to School launched VetLink, an initiative within our larger mentoring program, which partners our organization with some of the best colleges and universities in the U.S. including Amherst College, Cornell University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Notre Dame, Princeton University, Smith College, Williams College, and Yale University.

Are you a transitioning veteran thinking about applying to college to earn your undergraduate or bachelor’s degree? Sign up for help from Service to School.