Monday, August 20, 2018

Post-Military Education Anxiety

March 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Bras & Boots, Most Recent Posts

When I decided to leave the military and go back to school, I was absolutely paralyzed with fear. I would work out long, extensive budgets and convince myself I needed to stay in another 2 years, another 4 years, before I would be ok to leave.

When I think back on that panic, I can’t believe that I doubted myself for a moment. Change is rough; it is hard. Even when it’s the most wonderful change in the world, something you have been working toward and wanting, it still scares the life out of you. In my last eight months of my enlistment, I had applied and been accepted into a
Master’s program. This was something that I had always wanted, but I was terrified that I would fail.

We work very hard in the military – we sacrifice a lot. We learn to be fine with very limited resources, but we also get comfortable with what is provided to us; namely, housing and allowances. The thought of giving up that support can be intimidating, especially for a young enlisted person. I also think that some people get a false sense that the only place they can be alright is in the military. Or, they think that leaving the military is the wrong decision because they will miss it so much. The last couple ofmonths that I was in, I had terrible anxiety that I was making the wrong decision. Once I got on that plane, my doubt lasted about 48 hours.

I was a little leery of being a veteran in graduate school. I had this notion that everyone in academics would be prejudiced towards service members, but that’s just not true at all. People in general are very happy to assist veterans – I interviewed for an assistantship and had instant rapport with the faculty member because she had a son-in-law in the military. The university I attended had a Veteran’s office that was very attentive and helpful. College is actually a lot like the military – as long as you keep checking in with the people that are responsible for you, you’ll be in good shape.

One difference between military and civilian life is the availability of leadership. In the military, there’s always someone to tell you what to do. Sometimes they do a really great job of that, other times . . . . At school it is REALLY IMPORTANT for you to seek out good leadership. It could be someone in the Veteran’s Office, or maybe a faculty member, or maybe even someone at ROTC. You need to find someone you are
comfortable with who will be an advocate for you.

Finally, work hard. Believe it or not, I think veteran’s have a lot of advantages when it comes to education. First of all, people traditionally start school when then are way too immature to get much out of it. Veterans are much more disciplined and have a higher sense of appreciation for the work of the mind. School is actually pretty cool and stimulating and rewarding, if you are ready to develop yourself on a professional and personal level. Veterans are typically beyond that cultural understanding of college as a place you go to get wasted and laid (and failed). I am now in a PhD program and people comment all the time on my productivity and satisfaction – they don’t understand that after my time in the military, it is a joy and pleasure to just sit and read and think and express.

When you leave the military, please consider higher education. Don’t let your GI Bill go to waste and don’t let any self-doubt keep you from going to school. Our colleges and universities should be PACKED with 21st century veterans, because veterans should help shape the view of the world we gain through higher education.


One Response to “Post-Military Education Anxiety”
  1. Change can be scary but it can also be very rewarding in the end. I’ve also found that older students are more disciplined take school more seriously due to maturity. Military veterans should definitely take advantage of the GI Bill because they’ve worked so hard to earn it; it’s an investment in ones future.

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