A Veterans guide to Surviving College

This guide on Veterans in College was created by Antonio Hendricks, a student at the University of Montana, Army Veteran, devoted father, coach, and of course “Student”.

Veterans and College:

9 times out of 10 you can spot the Veteran on a College Campus, or at least the newly inundated.  They are usually the ones in the Grunt Style or Art15 shirts, camouflage back packs, patches on something, and an attitude that says they are better than you. I know this doesn’t make for a bad person, but  automatically they are separated, a person apart from the norm, and screams that person is still fully ingrained in their past.  The truth being, most of us can relate to that person, why, because we were probably them in one fashion or another.

Don’t get me wrong, a person’s military service is most likely a large portion of who they are/were and I know for me it definitely is.  But, like all things there is  a time and place for everything.

So You’ve Decided to Go to School…Now What?


When I started day 1 I had a thought that continually went through my mind: What the hell am I doing here??  This was immediately followed by the subsequent ideas of: Why did I decide to go to college, What am I going to study, and most of all How do I accomplish this goal? All of which were finished with: WTF??

On a more serious note, the biggest fear I have heard from other students-veterans (including myself), is the insecurity of being in the same cohort as a bunch of 18 year old, fresh out of high school kids. Are you embarrassed or ashamed of what they might think of you being the “old person” in their class, probably assuming that you failed out before? We were all worried about this at some point.

I can’t even begin to describe the amount of times those thoughts went through my mind when I first started.  I though that I had a goal, I thought I had a path to follow, and I thought most of all that I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.

The facts were: I didn’t know anything!!

So I did what many do, I stumbled; and then I sought advice.  Advice from people who had been where I was and could hopefully provide me some level of guidance to get me on the right path.  Using these mentors, many whom were very similar to the ones I had in the military, I found a way to navigate this new obstacle.

So……what do we do to be successful???

The things I found that have allowed me to be successful are simple, and quite honestly the same ones that got me through my time in the military!

  1. Do the Work:  I can’t tell you how simple this is and yet so many people refuse to do it.  You will constantly see people that don’t do the work and then complain about why they aren’t successful.
  2.   Be Accountable: Just like the military taught us. Be at the right place, at              the right time, with the correct stuff and you’ll never be wrong. Don’t                 worry about the people coming in 15 minutes late or not at all.  It’s your   education not theirs.
  3.  Humanize Yourself: I cant tell you the amount of times that introducing myself to a professor has allowed me to separate myself from the pack.  Showing your Professor that you care enough to have them know your name (in a good way) can make or break a person in a class and maybe help you over that hump between passing and doing really well.
  4. Ask for Help: This one is probably the hardest for anyone and for me was the hardest to get good at.  If you don’t know something ask.  If you are unsure of something ask.  If you need help…..ASK!! Recognizing that we all need help sometimes, put down the pride, or the fear and ask those around you.  Chances are they know the answer or have the same questions you do and like anything there are strengths in numbers.


Final Thoughts:

Is college a struggle?  Yes.

Does it take a lot of work? Yes.

Can it be made easier? Yes.

Those four things are by no means all encompassing, and for me are merely just what helped to get me through and to the point where I am at now.

Should you take the advice, that is entirely up to you, but like anything there are things that make the journey harder or easier.

Moral of the story:  Apply yourself, do everything in your power to succeed and and leave as little as possible to chance.

College even this late can be an amazing experience if you allow it to be and like the military you have the opportunity to create memories that will remain with you forever.

At the end of the day, be proud that you won’t let fear stop you. Be proud that you are willing to face the stigmas and do something for your future. And god forbid, attempt to be a mentor or a friend to some of those young kids that probably feel just as lost as you.