10 Tips For Military Veterans To Succeed In College With Top 30 Colleges for Veterans

Military veterans have an incredible financial benefit from their military service in the Post 9/11 GI Bill, College & University Grants, and other forms of financial aid. The GI Bill gives military veterans a strong financial incentive to attend and to complete higher education. Employers view military service combined with a four year college degree immediately following service as the foundation of an ideal employee for any company or industry.

Without doubt, there is a strong culture shock following military service, especially deployed combat service, and returning to the quiet and reflective settings of a university set on developing an appreciation of intellectual perspectives and in-depth study of things great and small. For military veterans, the over-focus on the differences of a college setting against a military environment misses what a college is supposed to be. A college is an institution that brings together a diverse group of people to create a setting of intellectual rigor, respect, discovery, and, ultimately, understanding and growth of what the world has been, is, and can be. College should be a focus on intellectual growth, research, discovery, and understanding. It must not be a focus solely on differences or lack thereof.

Military veterans in Higher Education need a common set of rules to help them adapt to the intellectual setting or college that uses their prior military service as a springboard to educational success and not an anchor.

  1. Be Ready To Commit, To Be Uncomfortable, and To Challenge Yourself. Military Veterans well remember the discomfort, surprise, and shock when we first went to Basic Training and our first deployments. Military Veterans also well remember the pride, strength, and espirit de corps that comes from graduating Basic Training, your first parachute jump, and the first time you qualify Expert on an assigned weapon. Military Veterans should expect these same emotions at college. Discomfort, growth, and then mastery along an intellectual path. College, just like the Military, is a path of challenge, discovery, failure, and growth. Military Veterans must be ready to renew the challenge.
  2. Chose Colleges Based On The Outcomes They Deliver — Not On Opinions. Prospective students should act to research, understand, and seek out the best educational outcomes that a degree will give them. Prospective students should seek out educational institutions with a large student body, a student retention rate > 80%, a graduation rate > 70%, a student loan repayment rate >80%, additional student loan debt no more than $25,000 for four years, and an in-state tuition with books no more than $30,000. Higher education success is the percentage of students that graduate from the school, the percentage of students that pay back their educational debt, the percentage of students that are employed, a low level of debt, a low tuition level, and a higher after graduation income. In short, college success is the success your career and finances experience when you graduate, not the short-lived esteem you experience upon admission. College success is a successful life and career following graduation.
  3. Have a Vision Of Your Success. The vision of success for Military Veterans must be to attend the most challenging higher education institution that they can gain admittance that does NOT place them at risk financially or personally. The most important attribute for military veteran students is that they must see themselves succeeding in college and then as entrepreneurs, teachers, academics, professionals, and others. College is a location to define and create a path to reach your goals.
  4. Attend a Traditional College with The Goal of a 4 Year Degree. Traditional colleges that have physical classes, established campuses, and an array of academic support functions are often overlooked by military veterans because they feel that they do not “belong” at a traditional higher education institution due to their age, family stage, or worldly experience. Military veterans get a broader, more focused and a higher educational value at traditional higher education institutions because they have the infrastructure, physical presence and learning style that military veterans are used to from their military education.
  5. Set A Goal of No More Than $2K of Educational Debt/Year. One of the ways that traditional higher education students and military veterans get into trouble while in school is taking on too much educational debt. A good rule of thumb is to take on no more than $2,000 of educational debt a year or $8,000 in educational debt in total over 4 years. A 4-year degree with little or no educational debt is a great way to begin a professional future. A 4-year degree with a high amount of educational debt places an instant burden on graduates that can take years to pay off. Keep educational debt to an absolute minimum by using all available GI Bill resources and saying “No” to debt.
  6. Create a Detailed Daily & Weekly Schedule With Classes, Fun & Assignments. In the military, units operated from daily and weekly training and operations schedules to ensure that all critical assignments, training, and classes were scheduled and completed. Military veterans need to adopt this same framework to their daily lives in college. Schedule time for classes, homework, completing key assignments, exercise time, time for sleep, and time for parties and dates. Keeping on a detailed schedule is one of the best ways to carry over military disciple and succeed at college.
  7. Go To All Your Classes, Sit In Front, and Talk To Your Professor. I have been teaching college classes for over 10 years. One of the greatest signs of success in a college class are students that come to all classes, sit in front, and engage the professor and fellow students in conversation. Classroom and education engagement is one of the sure signs of a student that enjoys their experience and their time at college.
  8. Have a Wide Group of Friends — All Committed to Graduating. Meeting, understanding, befriending and experiencing a wide group of different people is one of the best experiences of college. Again, a traditional college excels at bringing different groups of people together for a common learning experience. A wide group of friends that are united behind graduating, learning, and supporting each other is the best group of people to assist military veterans with the discipline, encouragement, and support to ensure successful completion of classes, coursework, and graduation.
  9. Have a Paid Part Time Internship During The School Year & Summer. A key opportunity that not many military veterans undertake is finding a paid internship in their field of interest and / or study. Military veterans usually have part-time jobs, but what they need is to work at company’s and in industries where they want to work following graduation. One of the best paths to find full time work is to undertake paid, part-time internships during the school year and summer. Internships give valuable experience, an idea of job paths following graduation, mentors, and a network.
  10. Start Networking and Job Search 18 Months from Graduation. Networking is the best way for military veterans to discover interesting occupations, find mentors, and find exciting companies with missions and visions that they embrace. The number one challenge most military veterans have to fulfill is to find a company that has a sense of purpose that they embrace and respect. Finding a set of companies and mentors for hiring takes time, which is why military veterans need to start 18 months from graduation in creating a network to secure full time employment.

The Top 30 Colleges and Universities for Military Veterans

These colleges and universities offer 4 year degrees, have large student populations, offer a variety of military veteran support services, have a high admissions rate, a >75% graduation rate, a student loan repayment rate > 90%, and a low ratio of student debt to full education costs. In a word, these high performing value institutions offer a great education and educational return for military veterans.

TOP 30 Colleges for Military Veterans, 2017

Military veterans in higher education are one of the best student groups for educators to have. Bright, engaged, ethical, experienced, and focused. In order to get the most from their higher education experience, military veterans need to embrace the challenge of a traditional, 4-year degree, chose a college based on the best outcomes those colleges deliver, and create a schedule that maximizes academics, healthy lifestyle, and social activities.

It is vital that military veteran students create a network of mentors, professors, and friends that encourage completing college, finding a field of study they enjoy, and then finding a company that values all the student military veteran can bring. Military veterans are great college students that have an incredible amount to offer to our colleges, communities, and companies.