Who are “Student Veterans”?

David Vacchi (2012) says it best: Colleges should expect student veterans to succeed.

The White House estimates that more than 1 million military personnel will separate from the military by 2016 (Azziz, R., 2013). Some student veterans may have started their higher education either before or during active duty (Kim, Young M., & Coles, James S., 2013). “Veterans” may include those who served during wartime or not, active duty or reserves, National Guard members (Vacchi, 2012). However, student veterans and their transition “are not a new development in U.S. higher education” (Rumann & Hamrick, 2009).

Student veterans may be part-time students who transfer in some credits (Schnoebelen, 2013). They may have responsibilities outside of college (Kim, Young M., & Coles, James S., 2013) including being married (Schnoebelen, 2013). According to the U.S. Department of Education, while 84 percent of veterans initially enroll in two-year institutions, 16 percent of veterans start in four-year institutions (Kim, Young M., & Coles, James S., 2013). They are more likely to be first generation students than their traditional counterparts (Kim, Young M., & Coles, James S., 2013). The estimate that 40% of student veterans have wartime injuries is false, the number is probably “twice the informed estimate” (Vacchi, 2012).

Transition to college can be difficult, “For many with whom we spoke, this was the most difficult transition of all” (Ackerman et al. 2009). Women student veterans may face a different transition than their male peers, this may have to do with how women create their identity while in the military (Baechtold & De Sawal, 2009). Active duty military personnel may enroll in online courses (Ford, Et al., 2009).

The military teaches personnel to be part of a team, that “failure is not an option”, so veterans believe they need to be strong for the team (Vacchi, 2012). Many do not want to be perceived of as a burden or as weak (Vacchi, 2012). Student veterans tend experience same amount of transition problems as traditional students (Vacchi, 2012). These lessons may become a barrier to student veterans, it’s our job as student affairs practitioners to become part of their team, a tool in their toolbox, to help them to succeed.

There are a few things that make student veterans different than traditional students, aside from age and life experience. Colleges or universities that offer credit for prior learning or career skills may appeal to veterans because of their life experiences (Azziz, 2013). Many veterans took their entrance exams, such as the SAT, while they were in high school (Vacchi, 2012). They may have different academic goals than traditional students (Reynolds, 2013). They may also feel detached from the military community (Azziz, 2013). Their questions regarding financial aid may be different, as some student veterans (not all!) use VA benefits to pay for school (Reynolds, 2013). A great way to meet these special needs or questions is to establish some type of Veterans Resource Center, which may offer career counseling, academic counseling, and social programming (Azziz, 2013).

 Something to always keep in mind is, any student you meet on campus could be a veteran. They don't look a specific way, or act in a specific way. They may have tells, they may disclose, they may be disables. They are always individuals with their own stories and their own idea of success.

Works Cited


Ackerman, R., DiRamio, D., & Mitchell, R. G. (2009). Transitions: Combat veterans as college students. In R. Ackerman, & D. DiRamio, Creating a veteran-friendly campus: Strategies for transition and success (New Directions for Student Services No.126 , pp. 45-54). San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Azziz, R. (2013). A Call to Arms: Academe Must Meet Demands of Downsizing Military. Diverse: Issues In Higher Education, 30(16), 19. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.rit.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=afh&AN=90375492&site=ehost-live.






Baechtold, M., & De Sawal, D. M. (2009). Meeting the needs of women veterans. New Directions For Student Services. In R. Ackerman, & D. DiRamio, Creating a veteran-friendly campus: Strategies for transition and success (New Directions for Student Services No. 126, pp. 35-43). San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Ford, D., Northrup, P., & Wiley, L. (2009). Connections, partnerships, opportunities and programs to enhance success for military students. In R. Ackerman, & D. DiRamio, Creating a veteran-friendly campus: Strategies for transition and success (New Directions for Student Services No. 126, pp. 61-69). San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Kim, Young M., & Coles, James S., 2013 (2013). Student Veterans/Service Members’ Engagement in College and University Life and Education. Retrieved from American Council on Education website: http://www.acenet.edu/news-room/Documents/Student-Veterans-Service-Members-Engagement.pdf


Reynolds, C. V. (2013). From Combat to Campus. Chronicle Of Higher Education, 21-26. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.rit.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=afh&AN=85944556&site=ehost-live. 



Schnoebelen, A. (2013). Group Offers Advice for Helping Military and Veteran Students. Chronicle Of Higher Education, 59(26), A21. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.rit.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=afh&AN=85944474&site=ehost-live.


Vacchi, 2012, D. T. (2012). Considering Student Veterans on the Twenty-First-Century College Campus. About Campus, 17(2), 15-21. doi: 10.1002/abc.21075

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