Veteran Students on Campus

By Military Connection Staff Writer Joe Silva

Nearly all Veteran students are older than traditional students and live off campus. In fact, most are married, have children, and are paying rent or mortgage on a home several miles from their educational institution. Depending on the size of your school, you might not see Veterans in the halls, on the quads or in the various student resource centers on campus. You also won’t see many Veterans at campus activities and events. But as a former Veteran student and as a university graduate, thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, I highly recommend that Veteran students participate in school events as much as possible.

For most of my time as a student, I would try to minimize my on-campus time as much as possible. Like many other Veteran students, I was married and had a night job. So my study time, my family time and my sleep time were precious to me. I went my first two semesters without attending a single event on campus, and I felt that I hadn’t missed a thing.

Finally, in my third semester, one of my professors made it mandatory that his entire class attend a reading on campus. The guest reader was author Junot Diaz. Those of you who know his name realize that this was a big deal. Since it affected my grade, I made plans to attend. I heard that there was a Q&A group meeting two hours before the reading, so I decided to attend that too.

The Q&A session was pushed back due to a late arrival of Mr. Diaz’ plane, and there ended up being only 10 students there. As a writer, having that amount of face time with a Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur Fellow was an experience that will stay with me the rest of my life. And to think that if my professor hadn’t made me go, I wouldn’t have gone.

After that night, I began attending more events and activities on campus. I attended more readings and saw a few plays. I eventually went on to join an honor society, and during my last few weeks on campus, I helped plan and host a reading of student writers. Looking back, those events make up some my fondest memories of my days as a Veteran student.

I want to encourage all Veteran students to participate on campus as much as you can. Get involved! You can start with your schools Veteran Resource center, but don’t make that your only form of student involvement. Participate in student government; as leaders, you can show your younger classmates how to excel and succeed. Join or start a student organization. There are fraternities and sororities and honor societies that are not only beneficial to your mental health, but also look great on résumés and grad school applications. You may also find yourself with a once in a lifetime experience, like mine, at academic events like readings, lectures and seminars. Veterans should also attend the fun activities that they hold on campus, like concerts and free parties.

Be sure to keep your head up and your eyes and ears alert on campus. There is a lot more to college life than just classes and homework. Take advantage of all that your school experience has to offer… you’ve earned it.