Supporting Veteran Students: Keys to Success

Juen A. - Class of 2021, Military Veteran

According to Student Veterans of America (SVA), military Veterans account for somewhere between 3% and 4% of U.S. college students. Almost half (47%) come from Army backgrounds, with smaller percentages coming from the Air Force (21%), Navy (18%), or Marine Corps (12%).

Considering the significant number of Veterans and servicemembers who are pursuing post-secondary degrees, it’s crucial for universities to implement strategies, provide tools, and offer resources that will meaningfully meet the needs of military students, who face unique challenges — but also possess unique strengths. From financial aid and career planning to workshops, mentorships, and counseling services, supporting Veteran students is a priority at NU.

Veteran-founded and military-friendly, National University is proud to create a culture that fosters success for student Veterans and servicemembers. Here’s how we work to enhance educational outcomes, decrease educational costs, and cultivate an environment where military students — and all our learners — can flourish.

Honoring the People Who Served

Statistically speaking, Veterans are typically older than other college students and are more likely to be employed, married, or supporting a family. In conjunction with these differences, they may be coping with physical disabilities or injuries, PTSD and trauma, or invisible injuries and mood disorders like anxiety, along with feelings of social isolation or alienation as they transition back to civilian life while simultaneously adjusting to campus life.

Despite these challenges, military Veterans are strong academic performers who bring specialized skills and valuable experience not only to the classroom, but to the employers and organizations they go on to serve. As the SVA points out, Veteran students “have consistently achieved higher academic performance as compared to traditional students ([GPA of] 3.34 vs. 2.94), and complete college at rates comparable with the national average, and higher than other adult learners (53.6% vs. 39.2%).”

It’s clear that student Veterans can excel, especially when equipped with the right sorts of tools and conditions for learning. So, what can universities do to support Veterans and create an environment where military students can thrive — not only academically, but socially, emotionally, and professionally? We’ll answer that question in the next section, where we’ll review seven best practices that empower Veteran students to engage, connect, and succeed.

Understanding Veteran Students

Veteran students enrich our campus with a wealth of diverse experiences and skills, each bringing their unique perspective shaped by military service and life experiences. Their journey from the disciplined structure of military life to the dynamic world of academia is both inspiring and challenging. We recognize that these students often juggle multiple roles – as learners, veterans, and often as family providers or community leaders.

Our approach involves creating a supportive and inclusive academic environment that acknowledges and leverages their strengths while providing targeted support. This includes specialized counseling services, peer support groups, and mentorship programs where veteran students can share experiences and strategies for academic and personal success. By understanding and valuing the diversity and strength of our veteran students, we create a richer, more inclusive community for all.

Kristian E.

Best Practices that Empower Veteran Students

Educators and administrators should work proactively to implement practices that create conditions conducive to learning, engagement, and communication. In other words, there are strategies that colleges can follow to help Veteran students overcome obstacles, leverage their talents, and reach their fullest potential. Here are seven ways to empower Veterans and active-duty service members on (and off) campus.

1. Creating a Culture of Trust

The Departments of Education, Veterans Affairs, and Defense have established “eight keys to Veterans’ success,” which the Department of Education describes as “steps that postsecondary institutions can take to assist Veterans and service members in transitioning to higher education, completing their college programs, and obtaining career-ready skills.” One of the eight keys is to “create a culture of trust and connectedness.” National University has proudly committed to the eight keys — and to supporting Veteran students in pursuit of their professional and academic goals.

2. Frequent Communication

Whether it concerns campus events, student organizations and services, VA benefits, scholarship application deadlines, the GI Bill, internship programs, or other opportunities, clear communication is essential for sharing information and creating a culture of inclusivity and connectedness. For example, it’s important to share timely email and/or text alerts about updates to campus policies that directly affect Veterans or their dependents.

3. Dedicated Staff for Veterans

Feelings of alienation or difference from their peers can be problematic for Veteran students, who are more likely to be older, are more likely to be married and employed, and are more likely to provide financial support for dependents than “traditional” student peers. It’s important to address these issues, along with issues around financial, physical, and mental wellness, by maintaining a dedicated, compassionate staff of Veterans who understand these topics from experience and will provide effective, nonjudgmental support.

4. Specialized Recruiting and Admissions

Veteran students may have different questions and concerns than traditional students who are coming from civilian backgrounds. For example, Veterans need to be educated about the availability of military-specific scholarships and their eligibility for GI Bill benefits. Universities should dedicate a specialized team of recruiting staff to assist incoming Veterans, which will facilitate and streamline the admissions process for graduate, undergraduate, and transfer students.

5. Student Wellness Services

Veterans must be able to easily access on-site and online student wellness resources that meaningfully address social, emotional, physical, and financial health concerns. National University offers one-on-one, solutions-focused counseling services to help Veteran and active-duty students cope with these challenges more successfully and remove impediments to learning. Our student wellness resources for Veterans are discussed in more detail below.

6. Military-Specific Scholarship Opportunities

There are numerous funding and financial aid opportunities for Veterans and their family members, which we covered a few examples of in our guide to military student scholarships. Universities should work to communicate information and provide students with guidance concerning deadlines and eligibility for scholarships, including private scholarships and federal benefits for Veterans. We’ll also cover a few of the military-specific scholarships that are offered by National University, along with several benefits that may be available through federal programs for service members.

7. Awareness of Faculty & Staff Resources

Resources are only helpful if they’re accessible — and accessibility begins with awareness. Therefore, it’s vital for colleges and universities to fill communication gaps and promote stronger awareness of the faculty and staff resources that exist for military students. For instance, one simple yet effective strategy is to compile up-to-date information online in a centralized hub or portal where Veteran students can quickly find answers to all their questions, along with contact information for reaching people or departments who can provide further assistance.

Cecilia M. - Class of 2012, Military Veteran

How NU Supports Veteran Students

At National University, we don’t just talk about supporting our Veterans — we live it. Established in 1971 by retired U.S. Navy Capt. David Chigos, we have over half a century of experience in higher education and are committed to giving back to the men and women who have served our country. Here are six ways we implement the best practices outlined above.

1. Program Support for Distance Learning

A growing percentage of college students, including student Veterans, are choosing to complete their degree programs fully or partially online. National University offers dozens of accredited degree and certificate programs in a range of formats, including in-person classes, courses that can be completed 100% online, and hybrid courses that blend on-site and virtual learning. This flexibility ensures that students can work at a pace and schedule appropriate to their needs.

Think distance learning might be right for you? Learn more about the benefits of pursuing a degree or earning your certificate online, then explore some of the online degree and certificate programs that are currently offered at National University.

2. Social & Emotional Student Wellness Services

National University strives to support the whole student experience from start to finish, including providing Veteran and active-duty students with social and emotional support. Our dedicated Student Wellness staff are trained to help military students address a wide range of issues, including mental health concerns like depression, financial literacy and budgeting, and sensitive issues like housing or food insecurity.

3. National University Veteran Center

The National University Veteran Center provides comprehensive support and resources for military students. Whether students want to contact the VA office, learn more about their benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, use a computer or printer, or discover upcoming workshops and networking opportunities, our friendly and experienced student Veteran staff members are there to help make it happen.

4. Financial Benefits

The cost of higher education is a concern for many students. National University offers a number of financial benefits and resources to assist with the cost of tuition and other expenses, such as military-specific scholarships like the NU Veterans’ Victory Scholarship or NU Veterans, Spouses, and Dependents Scholarship, which reduces tuition by 25%. These military scholarships are offered through the university to qualified applicants, such as students who may be ineligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill or Fry Scholarship.

National University also participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which, as the VA Office explains, is designed to provide assistance with “higher out-of-state, private school, foreign school, or graduate school tuition and fees that the Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn’t cover.” Learn more about the advantages of a Yellow Ribbon School for military students, or get in touch with our Veteran Center to talk about your access to benefits, grants, and scholarships.

5. Credit for Prior Learning

National University offers prior learning credit for applicable, measurable non-traditional learning — including military experience. We also award college credit for the successful completion of non-collegiate training programs, such as training completed in the military. Learn more about earning college credits for military experience, or how other work experience might count toward your credit hour requirements.

6. Community of Veteran Alumni

National University was originally founded by a Veteran, and that’s a part of our history we’ve never forgotten. We honor our legacy and our students by creating a Veteran-friendly learning environment that empowers achievement, from admissions all the way through to graduation. But the journey doesn’t end when students graduate, there are thousands of Veterans in our vibrant alumni community who contribute to an inclusive and welcoming culture for new students.

Teddy T. and Cecilia M.

Preparing for Post-College Success

Our commitment to veteran students extends far beyond their time on campus. We understand that the transition to post-college life can be as significant as the transition into college. Therefore, we focus on equipping our veteran students with the necessary tools and skills for success in their future careers and personal lives.

This preparation involves comprehensive career services tailored to the unique experiences and skills of veterans. We offer career counseling, resume workshops, and job placement services that recognize and value military experience. Our aim is to help veteran students translate their skills and experiences into meaningful civilian employment opportunities.

Additionally, we provide resources and guidance for those seeking to continue their education, whether through graduate studies or professional certifications. Our alumni network, which includes many successful veterans, offers mentorship opportunities and a platform for networking and professional growth.

Your Next Mission Awaits

At National University, we’re committed to supporting our military students in all aspects of their education and professional development. From introducing you to scholarship opportunities to determining whether your military experience qualifies for college credit, you’ll find online and on-site resources to connect you with student services and alumni communities, help you navigate and use your benefits to the fullest, provide assistance for online learners, offer a wide range of wellness services, and more.

From nursing, accounting, and engineering to business, education, and computer science, National University offers more than 75 accredited online, on-campus, and hybrid programs, including accelerated study options for students who qualify. The next question is, which of our degree or certificate programs is right for you?

Discover more about our accredited degree programs — and how NU works to create a military-friendly culture in all aspects of campus life. Contact our military admissions office, or start your online application today.

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