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Veterans face unique challenges adjusting to college life


Monday, September 09, 2013

For many college freshmen, the challenges of preparing for college range from completing financial aid paperwork to adjusting to a more rigorous study schedule. For veterans, however, college life may pose altogether different challenges as they struggle to adjust to life on campus after their tours of duty.

Different priorities
Writing for PolicyMic, Iraq war veteran Dario DiBattista said that in his experience, former servicemen and women approach situations with a significantly different perspective than their civilian classmates. While many young people find it difficult to adjust to a new level of responsibility associated with going to college, many veterans who are attending college for the first time have endured situations that many people would be unable to cope with, such as the rigors of armed combat. DiBattista recalled an incident in which a former Marine explained that his biggest challenge in college  "was dealing with people who treat every test as life or death."

Situations like this can lead to some veterans feeling disconnected from their classmates, as their priorities and outlook are very different. For these reasons, it is vital that colleges offer veteran students the support they need to adjust to all aspects of civilian life, including life in the classroom.

Support every step of the way
To address the challenges veterans experience adjusting to the college experience, many schools offer support programs to enable former servicemen and women to integrate successfully with the civilian student body.

This kind of support can range from the financial, in the forms of scholarships, grants and other merit-based financial aid, to various forms of counseling. Many veterans return from combat suffering from severe emotional trauma and cognitive disorders caused by post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury. These conditions can be debilitating and adversely  affect students' academic performance. However, many veterans are uncomfortable discussing these or other problems for fear of further isolating themselves.

According to The Associated Press, some colleges have gone as far as implementing "mentoring programs," in which veterans returning to college are paired with civilian students to help them cope with the transition to student life. Through these initiatives, former servicemen and women can receive the financial and emotional support they need to succeed in their academic endeavors and earn a college degree.

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