How military service can help you adapt to college
Transitioning into student life as an adult can be exhilarating, challenging and difficult, all at the same time. But for a current or former military servicemember, the switch can be more dramatic because the two lifestyles are so different, and the commitment required for each is considerable.
Fortunately, according to Garland Williams, PhD, associate regional vice president of the Military Division at University of Phoenix, the transition can be eased by relying on the many lessons from years of military service.
“These students bring two key things to the classroom: They’re disciplined and they’re task-oriented,” says Williams, who is a retired U.S. Army colonel. “They rely on the discipline they learned in order to do what is absolutely necessary to get the task done. They’re also trained to use time management when structuring their day to complete that task by a certain time.”
Common fears among military students considering pursing a degree include wondering how they'll fare at the college level (especially if they didn't consider themselves academic in high school), facing pressure as the first (or among the first) in their family to go to college, and apprehension about adjusting to an unfamiliar lifestyle.
While these fears are understandable, drawing on the very qualities that characterize the military — precision, punctuality and discipline — can smooth the transition into the college experience.
After the transition, these skills can also increase success in the classroom. For example, being in charge of a military unit develops skills that are useful for leading a discussion, delivering a presentation or managing a project.
Servicemembers are also accustomed to working as part of a team, adhering to orders and seeing a mission through to completion — all skills that can help when collaborating with classmates, following through on assignments or even finishing a degree.
Williams says the realization they can successfully adapt to the expectations associated with higher education usually comes once they get into the college classroom.
“They quickly realize,” he says, “that they are also capable of completing college and can make the transition fairly easily."