Supporting our Troops
Many current and former military service members take advantage of Post-9/11 GI Bill and other benefits to pay for college. Accustomed to the structure of the military, these students often find navigating higher education with its myriad choices similar to traversing a landscape without the proper maps. Supporting military-connected students in their educational journeys involves understanding their unique challenges, helping them translate their skills to a new context and assisting them in relating to the school community around them.
InsideTrack has coached thousands of veterans and active-duty military students and found them responsive to guidance and support when transitioning to civilian life and then an educational environment. The story below illustrates just a few of the benefits that student success coaching provides for military-connected learners.
Joel’s Student Journey
Joel grew up in a small town in Missouri that didn’t offer many options for successful careers. Many of his friends went to college, but Joel didn’t think he was, “college material.” That left construction, plumbing or electrical work as careers if he wanted to make good money. Those didn’t appeal to him either. Heeding his grandmother’s advice to make something of his life, he joined the Air Force at age 20.
As a technical sergeant, Joel inspected gear for water and land survival and trained crews to survive if their planes went down. He learned to find a balance between fast and accurate, but the responsibility of people’s lives weighed heavily on him.
Joel tried to fit college into his schedule early in his military career but couldn’t make it work.
His educational journey took more than a decade, but he finished with a bachelor’s in accounting and a master’s in taxation. The numbers and codes of these areas appealed to his sense of order and rules.
“My whole career in the military, we couldn’t do anything without knowing 30 regulations,” he said. “I didn’t put a number on the form until I knew it was right, in the right place and where it came from.”
In addition to taking a long time, he ran into a number of stumbling blocks on his college path. Some he navigated himself, and for others, he received advice and support from coaching.
Challenges and Motivation
After the discipline and direction of the military, he found it took time to adjust to university life.
“I found professors to be vague.” he said. “We had a paper to write, They try to teach you to think independently, but in the military, they tell you to write 10 paragraphs, 300 words in each … The freedom was a little daunting, and I didn’t know how to handle it.”
Joel also found it challenging to balance his work and school commitments. Beyond his civilian job, he invariably ran into conflicts between studying for tests and fulfilling his reserve duties.
Fortunately, Joel had developed a knack for problem solving during his time in the military. He also received advice and support from his success coach, Ron.
Ron offered academic guidance by helping Joel narrow his focus of study but also provided emotional support to boost his morale when needed.
“From the first 10 minutes, he was involved in my life like a brother, someone interested in me,” he said. “He always had an angle for me to consider that I hadn’t thought of whether for a job interview or how I studied. I was bummed when it was the last meeting.”
Overwhelmed with an inordinate amount of reading in a corporate tax class, Ron helped Joel with triage. Together they figured out the most important pieces of material to read thoroughly and how to glean information quickly from the rest. “I learned a valuable lesson,” he said, “knowing what you can do and what you can’t do. I wish I’d learned it sooner than halfway through the semester.”
Joel’s biggest struggle came with figuring out where he belonged: the military, school, family, career?
“I was pulled in so many directions, especially while in the Reserves, and couldn’t establish relationships with friends and family like if you weren’t in the military,” he said. “I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere.”
Joel found his place in the taxation field, putting numbers where they belong, but his educational travels had many twists and turns before he attained his goals. “After 20 years of not liking my job, I love my job.”
Military-connected students have unique struggles along their educational journeys, but guidance from coaches who understand the “military language” can help navigate these students around obstacles to successful civilian careers.
See our Solutions for Military Students