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Five Resources for Returning to School

Secretary Gates with a soldier

Source: DoD photo by Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison, U.S. Air Force/Released

Many people who leave the military decide to take advantage of the GI Bill and other education benefits in their post-military careers by enrolling in a higher education degree or certificate program. It can sometimes be challenging to return to the civilian community after deployment, and adjusting to academic life can be stressful for all students, including veterans.1

While this transition is often challenging, there are many exciting opportunities available to you. One exciting opportunity is to go back to school to further your education. The five resources outlined in this article can help make the transition easier for the men and women who have bravely served our nation in the military and can help to provide the tools for academic success.

1. Tips from Student Veterans of America

Student Veterans of America’s Military to College Guide, [PDF 250KB] provides the following suggestions for those navigating the transition from deployment to student life:2

  • Start with a few courses to ease the transition
  • Reach out to other veterans on your campus to establish a network of people you can rely on, just as you would have in your military life
  • Get to know your new professors and ask them for help
  • When studying, take notes, take frequent breaks and find a study partner
  • Take advantage of your school’s academic, tutoring and counseling services
  • Recognize your own signs of physical and psychological stress and seek help if you are overwhelmed
  • Practice regular exercise and relaxation techniques to help reduce anxiety and improve concentration
  • Participate in student activities to break down barriers and become part of the campus community
  • Recognize that others may not agree with you or understand your military service. Agree to disagree and respectfully decline to answer any questions that make you uncomfortable

The full Military to College Guide is available for free download online, and contains information for all student veterans about topics such as:

  • Education, state and university resources
  • Scholarships
  • Employment assistance and services
  • Combat stress reference guide
  • Navigating VA and VA education benefits

Student Veterans of America (SVA) is a non-profit coalition of student veterans groups on more than 265 college campuses across the United States that provides peer-to-peer networks for veterans attending those schools. SVA coordinates campus activities, provides information unique to veterans and facilitates the transition process to help support veteran success in higher education. Locate a chapter at your campus or a nearby campus on the SVA website.

2. Educational and Vocational Counseling from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA

In addition to the resources available to students at many colleges, community colleges and universities, VA provides free educational and vocational counseling services to transitioning service members who are:3

  • Within six months prior to discharge from active duty
  • Within one year following discharge from active duty
  • Current beneficiaries or veterans and qualified dependents who are eligible for and have entitlement to educational assistance under chapters 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 1606 or 1607

If you meet the eligibility criteria above, the services available to you include:3

  • Counseling to facilitate career decision-making for civilian or military occupations
  • Educational and vocational counseling to choose an appropriate civilian occupation and develop a training program
  • Academic and adjustment counseling to resolve barriers that impede success in training or employment

Visit VA’s GI Bill website to learn more and find out how you can apply for these free counseling services.

3. Vet Centers and VA Medical Centers

In addition to VA’s educational and vocational counseling services, you can always contact your local Vet Center or a VA Medical Center for additional support during your return to school. Vet Centers provide readjustment counseling and outreach services at no cost to all veterans who served in any combat zone. The VA health care system includes health care facilities located across the country that range from small, local clinics to large medical centers.

4. Academic Counseling from Veterans Upward Bound

It may have been several years since you were in school, and it is common to find your academic responsibilities challenging. To get support with your academic work, contact the Veterans Upward Bound Program near you. Veterans Upward Bound is a free Department of Education program designed to help eligible veterans enter and succeed in their post-secondary education.4 The resources offered by the program are designed to help identify learning needs and to help veterans succeed in school.2

5. Support from the Psychological Health Resource Center

The Psychological Health Resource Center provides information and resources to service members, veterans, family members, health care providers, caregivers, employers and others in the community with questions about psychological health issues. If you have questions about which tools for supporting your reintegration or education are right for you, a trained health resource consultant is ready to talk, listen and provide free, confidential guidance 24/7.

Additional Resources:


1 "Returning from the War Zone: A Guide for Military Personnel," [PDF 980KB] National Center for PTSD. Last accessed Nov. 18, 2014.
2 "Military to College Guide," [PDF 528KB] Student Veterans of America. Last accessed Nov. 18, 2014.
3 "Educational and Vocational Counseling Services," Department of Veterans Affairs. Last accessed Nov. 18, 2014.
4 "Veterans Upward Bound Program Information," National Association of Veterans Upward Bound Project Personnel. Last accessed Nov. 18, 2014.

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