Insider’s Look Into a Veteran’s College Experience

Brendan Carpenter, a former Marine (1989) and a graduate from East Carolina University (class of 1993), provides us with an insider’s look into his college experience after leaving the military. His experiences shed light on the transition process from the military to an academic environment through the help of the G.I. Bill and a strong desire to earn a college degree. Continue reading to learn more about Brendan’s story.

  1. Many of our site visitors are military veterans or currently serving in the armed forces. Could you provide us with a brief overview of your experience in the military and what led you to joining?
  2. After the military, what were your plans and how did college work out, or fit in, with your personal and career goals?
  3. What educational benefits were you eligible for?
  4. Why did you choose to attend XYZ University and was it difficult to transition to academia post military?
  5. Did you receive veteran support in terms of mental (and physical support, if needed)?
  6. Were you able to convert your military experience into college credit?
  7. What are all the ways a service member can earn college credits during enlistment?
  8. How did your military experience aid you in college?
  9. How did your military experience aid you in the professional world?
  10. What advice do you have for our readers who are in the process of applying to college after the military?

1. Many of our site visitors are military veterans or currently serving in the armed forces. Could you provide us with a brief overview of your experience in the military and what led you to joining?

I joined the military after high school because at the time, college and other meaningful opportunities were not available to me. While in the Marine Corps I was an air traffic controller serving both in the US and overseas. As an air traffic controller I was exposed to many college graduates who gave me a great appreciation of the benefits of a college degree. Accordingly, I made plans to attend college after serving my tour in the Marines.

2. After the military, what were your plans and how did college work out, or fit in, with your personal and career goals?

I specifically left the Marine Corps to attend college. Because of my experience in the Marines, and the maturity that I gained, I was able to focus on my college education with greater intent than the average student. I received my Bachelors in Accounting and had several job offers from the largest accounting firms in the world. My education allowed me to become a CPA and work in the field of finance which was not available to me prior to receiving my education.

3. What educational benefits were you eligible for?

I was eligible for the standard GI bill offered at the time, which essentially gave me enough money to pay for my education.

4. Why did you choose to attend XYZ University and was it difficult to transition to academia post military?

I chose East Carolina University because it was in the state I resided in when I left the military and because they had a good accounting program. The transition was fairly easy because I knew what I wanted to do (unlike some of my younger college peers) and pursued that directly.

5. Did you receive veteran support in terms of mental (and physical support, if needed)?

I did not apply for or need medical support. However, I was reactivated back into the military during the first Gulf War and the college reimbursed all of my expenses. Further, once being discharged after the Gulf War, the college brought me back into the school seamlessly.

6. Were you able to convert your military experience into college credit?

No. However, some schools do allow military students to convert their military experience into college credit which is a pretty nice incentive and something worth looking into for current military servicemembers or veterans.

7. What are all the ways a service member can earn college credits during enlistment?

You can attend schools that are local to your duty station or online universities; therefore, getting a head start on your education prior to getting out of the military.

8. How did your military experience aid you in college?

Because I served in the military right after high school, it gave me a few years to mature before starting college. As such when I began college I was focused and was able to prioritize school work and fun. Many kids that start college right out of high school are experiencing being away from home and handling responsibility for the first time and have a difficult time maintaining good grades. Because I started my education a little later than most kids, I was better able to juggle the various priorities of college life.

9. How did your military experience aid you in the professional world?

As a result of being in the military I was accustomed to dealing with difficult circumstances with less than desirable resources. In the business world you constantly have to work in these situations for which I was much better prepared. Also, as a result of my time in the military I learned to work effectively with people from all walks of life. This included working with people from different parts of the world different ethnicities, different socioeconomic back grounds etc. This proved invaluable to me when I began working with large national/multinational companies after graduating college.

10. What advice do you have for our readers who are in the process of applying to college after the military?

Getting your education is an invaluable experience both from the perspective of career growth, but also on a personal level.