When you are ready to make the transition to civilian life and are seeking to begin your collegiate career, there are a few things to keep in mind that can help you to succeed and enhance your college experience.
Your Benefits – Do You Understand them?
In the military, we relied on subject matter experts (SMEs) to provide us with the information needed to accomplish our assigned tasks or mission. It’s only natural to assume in college there are SMEs to help you with obtaining and processing you benefits, and in fact, there are. However, when it comes to your college education, you need rely on yourself and fully understand what your benefits are, how to apply for them, and how long your benefits will last. The best place to begin is by going to the GI Bill website and reviewing the information provided in the “For Students” section. Having a full understanding of your benefits and how they work will help you ensure you have the financial resources to help you throughout your college career, giving you one less thing to have to worry about.
Develop a plan and have a goal
All successful endeavors are based upon a plan and goals. So it is with pursuing your college education. Before you leave the service, spend some time in determining what you want to do after military service. In our Blog Series, we discussed in detail the steps to help you formulate your college plan. Regardless of what your goal is, before you leave the service, have a plan, don’t start college without one and just take courses aimlessly. Take aim of your goal, and work your plan. In the long run, it will take you less time and resources to accomplish what you set out to achieve. Having a good plan, will help you when life rises up at times to try to get in your way, which leads us to our next tip of being flexible.
Flexibility is KEY !
Even the best laid plan can go awry from time to time. In the military, every plan had one or more contingencies to deal with unforeseen circumstances. Believe it when I tell you, things in college don’t always goa as planned. Classes may get cancelled or moved to a new location. Assignment due dates may get changed, and will be due at the worst possible time. Professors may change the textbook for a class after you have purchased the one you thought you needed. And, you may not get that “A” on a writing assignment you were hoping for. All of these little hiccups in the plan does not mean the plan or you will fail. Just reassess the situation and make adjustments in your plan, never taking your eye off of your goal.
Flexibility goes hand-in-hand with being able to manage your time. One tip that will help you in managing your time is to use a calendar to plan out your day, week, and month. This may sound simplistic, but experience has shown, the one thing that really gets college students in trouble is not managing their time effectively. Whether you are attending college as a resident student or in an online environment, the one resource that is truly in your control is time. Using one calendar to keep track of all your appointments (family, friends, medical, job schedules, Reserve or National Guard Drill weekends, etc.) and your assignment due dates, will help you to identify challenges to getting assignments completed, giving you time to work with your professors should you need additional time to complete an assignment.
Get a “Battle Buddy” and seek out a mentor
In the service, we had our “battle buddy”, that person who we new had our back and we could bounce things off of and new we would get honest advice from. In college your buddy can be another veteran or fellow classmate, a professor, or staff member. In any case, having someone who you can count on throughout your college career will make facing the challenges college will present to you easier to overcome. When studying in an online program, this may be a challenge. In online programs, your classroom is virtual, so reach out to your classmates via the email system the school uses to reach out and establish a virtual relationship. You can also leverage other technologies like Skype to “meet” with classmates.
Having a mentor can also greatly enhance your success in college. Your mentor should be someone who is or has worked in the field of study you seeking to study. They can be an invaluable resource to you, helping you make course selections, developing thesis ideas, and in researching projects. Many schools provide mentorship programs with their alumni, so a good place to start is the office of alumni relations at your school.
Learn how to work on your own
Though having a buddy with you as you pursue your college goal and follow your plan, you need to be able to work and get things accomplished on your own. In the military we relied on “teams” to get things done, in college, it is individual effort that is needed and encouraged. Unlike in the military, no one is going to be telling you what to do, how to do it, and when you need to get it done. It is all up to you! That’s why it is important for you to know what it is you want, have a plan to accomplish it, and find your resources to help you along the way.
The bottom-line is this…you made it through basic training and maybe a deployment or two. Just keep telling yourself, “you got this”, follow these tips, and you will enhance your college experience and achieve the educational goals.