Upon separating from service, troops take a wide variety of paths, but many plan on making use of their education benefits and heading back to the classroom. While earning a degree is a popular activity for veterans, it is not without its fair share of challenges. Servicemembers often encounter problems assimilating into college life because their experiences separate them from younger, civilian students. However, many schools go to great lengths to make sure their unique needs are met, The Buffalo News reports.
One of the biggest issues veteran students encounter is the fact they have considerably different priorities than other students. Many veterans are at least several years older than others on campus, and some have families. Additionally, they want to get their degree as quickly as possible, which can make it hard to relate to others in the classroom. Additionally, veterans may also miss the strictly regimented routine offered by the military.
"The thing I struggled with for the longest time was, you no longer have your senior NCOs and stuff like that giving you orders," Matt Ziemendorf, a student at Niagara University, told the newspaper. "You're kind of figuring this out on your own."
Schools take action
With the influx of veterans separating from service as the U.S. winds down operations in the Middle East, many schools have been proactive in helping veteran students feel at ease. At Canisius College, where there are nearly 100 student veterans, there are services specifically designed to help former troops navigate many of the common challenges they face including registration issues and obtaining benefits from the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Of course, western New York isn't the only region where veteran students are heading back to the classroom. In Vermont, for instance, schools have hired counselors who are veterans themselves in an effort to provide students who have been servicemembers with an outlet that understands where they are coming from, The Associated Press reports.
The number of veterans making use of their GI Bill benefits has increased in recent years. Statistics from the Veterans Affairs Department show an estimated 500,000 people used the benefits in 2012, which was up about 13 percent from 2011, according to Military Times.