When I was a first-year college student, I was required to live in the dorms. Three months off a deployment I stuck out like a sore thumb as a lone 21-year-old among a sea of recent high school graduates. It wasn’t my being three years older that was the source of dissonance; it was the fact that I had already lived a life that required me to be solely independent. During the first week on campus, what they call Student Week, I was required to participate in various activities and orientations geared toward traditional learners who just a few days prior were living at home with their parents. I listened to the concerns of my new peers, such as what types of food would be offered in the dining facility, which bars allowed 18-year-olds, and where were the stores that handed out free gifts and coupons? And we can’t forget the Kardashians. They took center stage during many of the conversations that week.

For me, I simply wanted to know when my VA education benefits would be processed so I could purchase books and pay tuition. I also recall stressing over whether or not I was prepared to pass my classes after being out of the academic routine for several years. Unfortunately, I didn’t stay enrolled at the university for long. Less than a year after starting classes, I found myself back on active duty.

Fast forward a year later, I decided to give college another try. What made a significant difference this time around was that I connected with the Veterans Coordinator at my school and was quickly immersed in a veterans community. Unlike my first attempt at college, I was now among others who spoke a similar language and who knew the culture of the military. From this place, I eased my way into the college routine and eventually integrated into other aspects of the campus while assuming several leadership roles. Had a series of orientations and activities for military-connected students not been in place, I would have likely fizzled out and abandoned my dream of earning a degree.

This student veteran’s story eventually had a positive outcome. The critical connection he made on his second try at college was the key to his success. For many student veterans, they fail to make that connection – either because they don’t take advantage of the activities and events on their campus…or their campus doesn’t offer them.

Activities and events created specifically for your student veterans, particularly during the the first few weeks of classes, are essential.

Patricia Starks and Dr. Nicholas Osborne created a module focused solely on Activities and Events for Student Veterans in their Camouflage to Campus online training course. In addition, Terry Arndt, President of Veteran Transition Publishing, interviewed Dr. Osborneto learn more about the importance of these activities and events, as well as what activities and events should be implemented. You can read this module and watch the video HERE. Not a member of Veteran Transition Publishing? Contact us to learn how to join.

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