Veterans in College: Top Schools with Veteran Support Services

veterans in college

With thousands of student veterans in colleges, robust veteran support services are necessary. More than 670,000 veterans in college use their educational benefits. These benefits include tuition assistance and discounts, full-ride scholarships, and other financial aid.

Veterans in higher education aren’t your traditional college students either. Student veterans have the following unique characteristics:

  • Most are between 24 and 40 years old, not the traditional college age
  • 47.3% are married and have children
  • 62% are first-gen college students
  • 75% are full-time students. (Not surprising, considering that intensive military workloads and unpredictable deployments are behind them)

More than half of student veterans are in bachelor’s degree programs, too. Many are in associate degree programs.

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Like their active-duty student counterparts, veteran students pursue college degrees for various reasons. These include increasing their career opportunities and gaining new skills. Making a smooth military-to-civilian life transition is also a common reason.

Why are student veterans important in the first place? Student veterans have valuable knowledge, skills and experiences that enrich our society. In college settings, their insights bring fresh perspectives into classroom discussions.

Student veterans are academic achievers, too. Studies have shown higher GPAs and retention rates among student veterans.

As citizens, student veterans are productive citizens, too. Many of them are aspiring entrepreneurs who gain relevant competencies through formal education.

Indeed, student veterans make significant contributions in and out of the classroom. It’s only right that they have access to robust veteran support services in colleges.

These veteran support services enable every student veteran to achieve their academic goals. In the process, they can achieve their career and life goals, too. It’s only fitting that we recognize their service to the nation in this manner.  

Why Veteran Support Services Matter

Between 27% and 44% of veterans report challenges in their military-to-civilian life transition. Many factors contribute to their unique challenges, including:

  • Physical and mental trauma while in service
  • Serious injuries
  • Served after 9/11
  • Combat experience
  • Served with fellow service members who sustained serious injuries or were killed

These factors also influence veteran success in college for many reasons. For example, mental trauma can get in the way of concentration and socialization. Physical trauma can be a hindrance in getting around, particularly for on-campus students.

As unique individuals, no two veterans are alike. Every veteran has unique personal experiences with the military-to-civilian life transition. In general, these are the challenges that veterans returning to civilian life face.

1. Transition stress

  • While PTSD and transition stress have similar symptoms, these are different. Transition stress refers to the high stress levels throughout the transition process.
  • The wide range of symptoms has a negative impact on the veteran’s quality of life. Emotional symptoms include anxiety, depression, and mood swings. Veterans also report intrusive thoughts, memory and concentration issues, and sleep disturbances. Many become isolated, turn to harmful substances, or engage in risky behaviors.
  • Little to no sense of purpose or direction

Many veterans lose their sense of purpose and direction during the transition. No surprise here – the military offers structure, purpose, and direction in clear terms. Without these aspects, it’s easy to lose your sense of identity. Losing these aspects also means adjusting to a less structured life.

2. Difficulties reconnecting with family, friends, and non-military people

With extended deployments, veterans find it difficult to fit in with family and friends. Their family and friends have routines that don’t include them. The adjustment can be challenging. This is particularly true when establishing new connections with service providers.

3. Challenges in entering the civilian workforce

The civilian workforce processes can be a shock to veterans. Everything seems so different, from the resume to the interview.

While they may have the competencies, their formal education doesn’t match job requirements. Even when hired for the job, it’s a far cry from the military environment.

Veterans going back to college face a whole set of challenges, too.

  • The affordability of a college education is a foremost concern. Even with military-specific financial aid, it can still be a challenge. We always suggest considering colleges for veterans to get the most financial aid.
  • Being treated as a monolith is an issue, too. Every student veteran has unique experiences in their military to civilian transition. As such, they must be treated as unique individuals through tailored support services.
  • Juggling multiple VA appointments with family responsibilities is no mean feat. Student veterans can face difficulties in keeping up with their academics.

With these unique challenges, we cannot overemphasize the value of veteran support services. When tailored veteran support services are accessible, student veterans can enjoy:

4. Better transition from military to civilian life

When veterans have access to military-specific student support services, their transition becomes easier. Many colleges offer admission-to-graduation veteran support, meaning veterans don’t feel isolated. These student support services bridge the gap between their reality and expectations.

5. Academic success

Veteran counseling and academic advising for veterans are crucial for college success. Counseling enables veterans to deal with their academic challenges in healthy ways. Academic advising allows them to chart a clear path toward graduation. Both address the unique challenges, needs, and goals of every student veteran.

6. A sense of community

Being part of a community boosts self-confidence and self-esteem. Veteran students find the military-to-civilian transition easier, too, with a sense of belonging. The best veteran-friendly colleges have veteran-specific offices, clubs, and organizations for this purpose.

Top 10 Colleges Offering Veteran Support Services

University of Texas at Arlington

UTA offers robust veteran support services through its Department of Military and Veteran Services. Veterans enjoy services like:

  • Veteran Orientation
  • Financial aid assistance
  • Academic advising and counseling

University of Maryland Global Campus

UMGC’s Office of Veterans Initiatives and Outreach offers admission-to-graduation services like:

  • Financial aid for veterans through the Veterans Assistance Fund
  • Academic advising
  • Counseling and tutoring

University of the Pacific

The Military and Veterans Student Center at Pacific participates in these programs:

  • IAVA, a post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization
  • Ride to Recovery
  • Wounded Warrior Project
  • Veteran Tickets Foundation
  • Outward Bound for Veterans

Hodges University

The Dr. Peter Thomas Veteran Service Center provides veterans with an informative environment. Veterans man the center, too, and offer services like:

  • Education funding and guidance
  • Mental health counseling
  • Academic advising
  • Transitional support

Clemson University

Clemson’s Military & Veteran Resource Centers offers student veteran support services including:

  • Paws and Stripes, an informational virtual monthly newsletter
  • Military tutoring resources
  • Green Zone training
  • Scholarships for veterans

University of North Carolina Wilmington

UNCW’s Office of Military Affairs provides admission-to-graduation veteran support services like:

  • Access to the Military Affairs Wing in Veterans Hall 1029
  • Priority registration for classes
  • Access to all university support services, including counseling, learning, and disability resource centers
  • Guidance for leave of absence

University of San Diego

The USD Military and Veterans Program has a student-centric approach. Student veterans enjoy:

  • Access to the Veteran Center
  • Academic advising
  • Career advising
  • Financial aid 
  • Family support
  • Mental health and wellness

Pennsylvania State University

Penn State’s Office of Veterans Affairs and Services provides veterans with robust support services like:

  • Dedicated student veteran space
  • Student veteran clubs and organizations
  • Scholarships
  • Dedicated military admission and advising team

Colorado State University

CSU has an extensive veteran support system, including:

  • Adult Learner and Veteran Services (ALVS) Office
  • Veterans Education Benefits Office
  • Academic Advising
  • Tutoring services and peer mentoring
  • Career development
  • Mental health counseling

Texas A&M University

TAMU has a strong military connection, and it shows in its veteran support services like:

  • Access to the Veteran Resource & Support Center
  • Military admissions
  • Access to Aggie One Stop, where tuition assistance for veterans is available

Counseling and Mental Health Support

Student veterans benefit from professional mental health counseling in many ways. With it, transition stress becomes less of an issue and fitting in becomes easier.

Every veteran-friendly college has its specific mental health counseling services. The most common are:

  • Individual counseling, including personal therapy sessions
  • Group counseling, including veterans-only support groups
  • Peer-to-peer support and mentoring
  • Family counseling and couples therapy
  • Virtual counseling sessions
  • Crisis intervention services, including on-campus and emergency services

Veterans resource centers are also essential in mental health and wellness. These dedicated spaces create a sense of community. Here, you will find success stories among student veterans.

Academic Advising and Career Transition

College is a whole new world for many veterans, which makes veteran support services crucial. Being in a civilian job can be scary after years in military jobs. The best veteran-friendly colleges offer student veterans support services for easier transition.

These academic and career transition support services include:

  • Application, admission, and enrollment support
  • Start-of-term orientation for veterans
  • Dedicated military and veteran academic advisors
  • Tailored academic plans that consider military experience and training (e.g., CCAF and MOS)
  • Transfer credits for military training and experience
  • Transition courses, activities, and workshops (e.g., civilian work culture)
  • Career counseling and development
  • Recruitment events, including job fairs
  • Professional mentorship programs

Conclusion

Student veterans have unique challenges that make their military-to-civilian life transition challenging. Fortunately, the best veteran-friendly colleges provide robust veteran support services for their students that make the transition easier and smoother. Whenever you feel isolated or lost, seek out these veteran-specific student support services.